The Day After The Deal With The Devil

“He has darted now to the far right, economically.”

—Joe Scarborough, conservative Republican

This morning on Morning Joe, the discussion, naturally, focused on President Obama’s deal with the right-wing in Congress.

Joe Scarborough, speaking from the right, summed up his view of Mr. Obama:

After this, you cannot say he’s a socialist.  The right has been calling him a socialist forever. This is income redistribution, but it’s taking it back to the rich.

I mean, millionaires are getting tax cuts.  Billionaires are getting tax cuts…They’re lowering the estate tax. They’re giving payroll tax breaks for the next couple of years.  My God, I would be afraid to campaign on this, as a conservative with a 95% lifetime rating—actually, I did campaign on stuff like this…it is stunning…He has become a Jack Kemp Democrat.  He needs to embrace it.

Now, there’s no doubt that Scarborough has overstated the case.  President Obama did not become a supply-sider overnight.  He made this deal with the devil because, as he said, “these are not abstract fights for the families that are impacted“:

As for now, I believe this bipartisan plan is the right thing to do.  It’s the right thing to do for jobs.  It’s the right thing to do for the middle class.  It is the right thing to do for business.  And it’s the right thing to do for our economy. It offers us an opportunity that we need to seize.

Obviously, Mr. Obama was in a difficult place.  He acknowledged that, “political wisdom may dictate fighting over solving problems,” but, he said,

I’m not willing to let working families across this country become collateral damage for political warfare here in Washington.  And I’m not willing to let our economy slip backwards just as we’re pulling ourselves out of this devastating recession.

Fair enough.  Except that the main reason the President found himself in this position at the end is because he was so weak at the beginning.  After the November 2 election, he essentially waved the white flag and invited Republicans to come in to finish the rout.

And, being Republicans, who know how to play hardball politics, that is exactly what they did.  Yesterday, here’s how John Boehner played it:

It’s encouraging that the White House is now willing to stop all of the job-killing tax hikes scheduled for January 1.

Get it? That’s the way it will play out, as this thing goes forward.  Obama will get exactly zero credit for any benefits from this deal.  Republicans will take all the praise and leave him with the ill effects. Despite what Scarborough says, Obama will still be a big-spending, liberal, socialist, anti-American scoundrel.

In his statement yesterday, liberals would have at least liked to hear our President call out the Republicans for what they have done.  But this is the closest he could get:

Now, Republicans have a different view.  They believe that we should also make permanent the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans.  I completely disagree with this.  A permanent extension of these tax cuts would cost us $700 billion at a time when we need to start focusing on bringing down our deficit.  And economists from all across the political spectrum agree that giving tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires does very little to actually grow our economy. 

This is where the debate has stood for the last couple of weeks.  And what is abundantly clear to everyone in this town is that Republicans will block a permanent tax cut for the middle class unless they also get a permanent tax cut for the wealthiest Americans, regardless of the cost or impact on the deficit.

All of that is, of course, true.  But it lacks the fighting force of Boehner’s “job-killing tax hikes” rhetoric. 

So, since Mr. Obama simply refuses to tell it like it is, I will revise his statement to read more Boehner-esque:

Now, Republicans have a different view.  And I not only completely disagree with their view, I believe it is chicken crap. They want to give the richest Americans, who already are cashing in big time in this otherwise dreary economy, a $700 billion dollar bonus.  Wait. That’s worse than chicken crap. That is a Joe Dirt, wagon-sized turd ball is what that is.  There isn’t an economist this side of the Heritage Foundation who thinks that it will help the economy.

And, yes, I screwed up at the beginning of this thing and allowed the Republicans to play me.  I know that.  And I’m sorry.  But now it has become abundantly clear to everyone in this town that Republicans are willing to screw 99% of the American people just to put more jingle in the pockets of their country club friends, no matter the impact on the deficit that they claim to be so damned worried about.  And I just can’t let that happen.

I promise to do better next time.  For now, I’ve got to do what I think is right for the American people.  But I will not let the Republicans do this to me again. 

And I will not let them do this to you again.

 

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8 Comments

  1. Duane,

    I’ve spent the morning reading various reactions to Mr. Obama’s deal with his loyal opposition. A few supporters have stressed that the extension of unemployment checks and decrease in payroll taxes were the president’s primary goals. He was willing to let Republicans have their two year millionaire/billionaire income tax cut in exchange for a $300 billion stimulus package. In essence, Obama addressed immediate economic hardships for those falling through the cracks, while Republicans were only interested in serving their constituency. It does paint a stark picture: Republicans were willing to leave millions destitute if the wealthiest were not placated. Even though those prospering exponentially during the Great Recession have either parked or reinvested their cash, the loyal opposition maintains the illusion that higher tax rates for the rich impedes job creation.

    But now that Republicans have what they wanted all along, the prospects for future compromises are unlikely. Phony deficit hawks will pretend that tax cuts pay for themselves and blame entitlement spending for the stalled economy. Since the loyal opposition has shown no serious interest in engaging in ways to reduce the deficit, via realistic tax increases or defense spending curtailment, conservatives who sat on their hands during the previous administration’s tax holiday spending spree will continue to clutch pearls and pretend the initial stimulus package and health-care reform created all the red ink.

    There’s no question that Obama leaves the negotiating table weaker politically. Liberal Democrats are overwhelmingly appalled that the president would cave on tax cuts. Although the opportunity to make the case was squandered last fall, there was hope that the president would adopt an intractable position against a continuation of Bush II’s wealthy-friendly tax rates. Frankly, I was too. It would have been interesting to watch Boehner, McConnell & Company take to the floor and explain why adding an addition $700 billion to the debt was worth sticking it to the unemployed and sinking middle-class just so Fox & Friends could buy another beach house. Or better yet, how making sure the rich get richer is a greater national security priority than nuclear arms deduction. The position that the unemployed and working poor should bear the burden for failing to collect trickle from a gamed (unregulated) Wall Street feeding-frenzy has more in common with banana republics than those professing to represent a democratic-republic.

    The only bright spot for Obama is Sarah Palin rejected pleas from tea baggers to replace Michael Steele. It obviously dishonors Reagan to hold down a real job when running for president. Besides, the RNC has become obsolete since the Supreme Court ruled money has a soul and can therefore contribute undisclosed amounts without the intrusion of transparency. Unless the president declares war on Iran, making it problematical for the right to question his religion and patriotism, he might manage to narrowly defeat the caribou-hunting Face Book celebrity. Perhaps tea baggers should ask one of the Kardashian sisters to think about replacing Steele.

    juan

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    • Juan,

      Well said. Obama is weaker, politically, than if he stood and fought the Republicans. And the sad thing is he had the winning hand in this game, to the extent we label what is going on a game. I do think Democrats in Congress share some of the blame for waiting until the last minute to do something about the tax rates. This should have been taken care of this past summer.

      In any case, I continue to maintain that Ms. Palin has no intention of running for president, for the reason you suggest related to the RNC gig. Being president would constitute having a real job, one which would require her to actually move to Washington and go to work. As you know, when she was serving her fractional term in Alaska, she spent a lot of time in Wasilla, where presumably she could lounge around in her pajamas, while still receiving meal money from the state.

      I don’t think that someone with that work ethic has the slightest desire to,

      a) supervise the organization of a campaign team,

      b) campaign for more than a year, then,

      c) if God wills it in Rita Crowell-like fashion, actually spend 24-7 being president.

      The great thing for Democrats would be for her to entertain the idea that she could actually win the presidency. (She couldn’t, of course, unless Obama borrowed the American flag for a golf towel and was caught on tape using it to wipe down his Karl Marx-engraved eight-iron, after a rather nifty approach shot, which he hit while holding on to a pig-tailed prostitute, who just happened to be passing by the golf course in a Catholic school-girl outfit.)

      Duane

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      • Duane,

        Palin will definitely run for president. If she came out and stated that she wasn’t interested, her ability to generate media attention through campy “reality” show exposure and ghost written Face Book “editorials” would wane; she would become just another Kardashian or Kate Gosselin — famous for being famous. Because she lacks any discernible talent other than cagey self-promotion, the current gig as spokes-model for the latest batch of John Birchers-cum-Christian Dominists keeps her PAC flush, and allows Beltway journalism to pretend every tweet has political significance.

        When you look at the roster of Republicans eying a run at Obama, it isn’t unthinkable that Palin could compete with Huckabee, Gingrich and other Fox “News” celebrities. Romney will never win over the “real” American conservative base (even with Wall Street’s generous backing) and Pawlenty makes Romney appear to be a model of consistency. New Jersey’s Chris Christie could emerge as a less off-putting Giuliani and attract Rove’s paymasters, but his big city demeanor won’t play well where the true believers are convinced Obama is a Kenyan.

        The unstable political climate plays into Palin’s hands. Will the Murdock-Ailes-Limbaugh axis alienate their audience by going after her if she emerges as the front runner? As divided as the Democratic Party appears today, the GOP’s near-heroic ability to stay on message might fracture should she face withering scrutiny from nervous millionaires, afraid their plutocracy would implode with Sister Sarah as the party’s nominee. Of course, she’ll use her leverage for financial gain. She won’t exit the stage quietly without serious compensation. But if the last election is any indication, a slew of early primary victories in sock money friendly territory could make it impossible for cooler heads to prevent the “Mama Grizzly” of all “reality” shows from finally fulfilling McLuhan’s prophecy.

        Obsessive Palin observers, notably Andrew Sullivan, are convinced the former half-term governor believes that it’s divine providence that she avenge the ’08 campaign, and lead America back to the 19th century. I’m not sure the 21st century is all that bright after watching three minutes of “Ice Dancing with the Stars.” Regardless, I’m not taking any chances and will renew my passport — just in case the country’s nervous breakdown becomes full-blown psychosis, and the Clan Palin becomes the First Family.

        juan

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        • Juan,

          Nice analysis, but while I respect the opinions of both you and Andrew Sullivan, I have to beg to differ with both of you on this issue. No doubt, she will act as if she’s running for some time, but when it comes down to it, she won’t do it.

          I think her new-found ability to fleece conservatives for every last dollar trumps any divine calling she may or may not have sensed when McCain plucked her out of the hand of the Almighty and thrusted her into a world she had never known.

          Even if she did decide to run, I believe Karl Rove would not only oppose her on “she’s not ready” grounds, he would raise money for the most electable right-winger who emerges at the time, claiming that to do otherwise would ensure an Obama victory. I believe this strategy would be very effective, in terms of defeating her or getting her to back down.

          I will bet you an afternoon at the Tropicana that she doesn’t run.

          Duane

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          • Duane,

            By running, I take it to mean that we both agree Palin will float the possibility well into next year — and beyond. She’ll fleece her flock with visions of a new and improved Christian Conservative Constitution, divinely inspired so white fundamentalists can once again assume their God given (and preordained) hegemony; you know, the one our theocratic Founding Fathers crafted until the 14th Amendment spoiled everything. Although she didn’t care for the day-to-day drudgery of doing the ‘governor thing’, she is a tireless self-promoter. She could retire quite comfortably after raking in serious cash from her book deals and lax Fox “News” duties; and for quick paydays she can always give the occasional canned stump speech (testimonial) to anti-Enlightenment prayer warriors. But she’s very ambitious (greedy) — and she knows the clock is ticking if an even grander destiny lurks around her front porch.

            I have little doubt that she’ll taste Iowa’s corn to see if her cult-celebrity status as The Northern Star is potentially a winning entry. Unless another candidate emerges to redirect the unexplainable attraction talk radio junkies have for demagogic personalities, she‘ll own the media-hyped oxygen. It’s been over two years, and what she calls the “lame-stream media” still hasn’t pressed her to hold a press conference.
            I do believe that Palin has a legitimate shot at winning the nomination, considering the weak field. Primaries are won by energizing the base. There’s no question that an increasingly ethnocentric, right-wing group-think dominates the party. Palin’s mile wide, inch deep unfamiliarity with…everything…is viewed as a positive attribute.

            I agree that Karl Rove and his undisclosed donors are hoping she’s teasing the base for easy money. However, Palin is nothing if not a first-class opportunist. Of course a scandal too tawdry for Joe and Mrs. Plumber’s viewing pleasure could derail her political career, and a Rove orchestrated effort attacking her empty sloganeering as too lightweight to challenge a sitting president could instigate an inner-party backlash. But I would never discount Palin breaking away from the GOP and launching an independent Tea Party campaign should country club “elitists” spoil God’s plan. She is, after all, a clever sociopath who doesn’t play by the rules.

            Unfortunately, I don’t see her easing into the role of a sexy, mammal killing Phyllis Schafly. But I hope you’re right, even if it means an afternoon at the Tropicana is on me (or Beloved’s Downstream tithing stash). By the way, Big Al phoned and told me that the Cards acquired Lance Berkman. I need to pay more attention to the really important things. I smell a dandy clean-up hitter next season — assuming he’s healthy.

            juan

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  2. You two seem to capture the essence of it. We live in strange times.

    The mystery to me is captured in this sentence of Juan’s:

    “Even though those prospering exponentially during the Great Recession have either parked or reinvested their cash, the loyal opposition maintains the illusion that higher tax rates for the rich impedes job creation.”

    I saw one brief segment on a national TV news show where a small businessman was asked if failure to renew the tax cuts for over $250K would affect his business plans. At first he looked like a deer caught in the headlights and then said it would “probably” result in hiring one or two fewer employees in the coming year or two. This is pretty thin gruel. I have yet to hear any reasoned defense of the position. My impression is that most businesses of any size are incorporated and are thus insulated from personal income effects. The real effect of renewing the cuts on the wealthy is to increase their discretionary income. Maybe yacht sales will pick up.

    Why is there no public outcry? Maybe because the problem can’t be described in only 140 characters?

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    • Jim,

      You have yet to hear any reasoned defense of the position because there is no reasoned defense of the position. To my knowledge, every reputable economic analyst group has determined that in terms of stimulating the economy, unemployment benefits return almost two to one in terms of investment, and tax cuts for the rich relatively nothing. They are, as you say, merely an increase in their discretionary income, but they’re not spending much of it on yachts. If they were, that would at least help yacht builders. They tend to sock it away in the bank, which many of them own!

      Duane

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  1. The Republican’s 2010 deal with the devil « The Overton Salon

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