Commitment, Compromise, Consensus and Congress

The 2008 Commitment:

Taxes will go up on those making over $250,000.

The 2010 Compromise:

Nobody’s taxes will go up, and we’ll throw in some more tax breaks that will add a couple of bucks to your paycheck.

The Consensus?

Um. No. A real consensus, achieved through civil dialogue, would have required agreement from Democrats and Republicans, willing to let go of using petulance disguised as principle to punish each other for the results of the last three presidential elections. Do you really think they can do their jobs and come to an agreement about what’s best for the citizens of the United States? Not exactly how Congress has been working for the last 15 years (if ever). Besides, once the President announced he was willing to extend the tax-cuts, there was no incentive for consensus.

The bottom line: it sucks. There’s no arguing that the deal President Obama made with Congressional Republicans is anything but horrid. Obama can spin the benefits however he wants; the fact is, this is just another hit on the agenda he laid out for us during the 2008 campaign. In order to pay for programs like Health Care, it was essential that the tax rates on the upper two percent revert to pre-Bush tax cut rates. Now – or for the next two years, anyway – any program he puts forward is going to be spindled as unaffordable, or at least not viable without dumping another essential government program.

President Obama asks President Clinton to help him sell the Compromise, December 10, 2010.(White House photo)

And it’s not only the tax rate controversy. Ending our military involvement in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars was also supposed to free up revenue to pay for programs while moving us toward balancing the budget. Now, those timelines are being challenged.

In the case of the over nine-year-old Afghanistan war,  Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) declared after a visit to the country last month, that the July, 2011, withdrawal date seemed to her to be “a political target date; I don’t think it’s a military target date.”

Regarding the Iraqi conflict, problems with that country’s political process could cause the government there to ask the U.S. to delay the scheduled December, 2011, withdrawal date, “a scenario U.S. officials appear to favor,” according to a recent Washington Post story.

Sadly, deciding to continue those conflicts will require resources more precious than just money – it will cost lives, paid for with the blood of soldiers and civilians.

Having said that, while it is easy to sympathize with the frustration of the House Democrats who voiced their protest to the tax-cut compromise so dramatically this past week, we cannot let this become Obama’s Harriet Miers moment. Disagree, but support. In the long run, there is no one waiting in the wings more qualified – intellectually or electorally – to bring the values most of us believe to the White House.


Postscript: This must be said – any rhetoric that concentrates on how the obscenely wealthy must be taxed, must be framed in the context of how America needs their help right now. “Stop being afraid of what’s being taken from you,” the argument must go, “and concentrate on how much you can give. The government is giving you the bill because it needs your help.”

If all we talk about is how we need the money to pay for programs that support and aid the poor and middle classes, it comes across as a “redistribution of wealth” argument, and risks the label of “socialism.” That is something that will turn off even the best citizens, including those for whom such help would be welcome and necessary. We’re not here to take anyone’s money. We’re here to make certain that if any of us falter, there is redemption – even for the least of us.

One thought on “Commitment, Compromise, Consensus and Congress

  1. The redemption argument is an improvement, but what about the idea that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy were an unfair bonus in the first place? They didn’t work to stimulate the economy at all. So now that theft from the treasury should be over.

    Why should we allow the discourse of asking rather than simply saying that America is sick of paying for the mistakes and corruption of the rich while they use labor and infrastructure and all sorts of incentives without playing fair? Profits are back up – UP UP UP – but still not hiring? That’s just simple exploitation.


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