Swallowing the Deal

| Wed Dec. 8, 2010 12:26 AM EST

Comrade Rotwang, whose lefty credentials are unassailable, says that treating tax cuts for the rich as a hill to die for is an indication that liberalism in America has become "withered and puny." Sure, Obama's deal may not be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but its five provisions are all worthwhile:

The rationale for all of these is to stimulate spending, by individuals both rich and poor, by workers, and by business firms. We desperately need such spending now.

Some features will be more effective than others, but all will be more effective than doing nothing. The rich may not spend much of their tax cut, but they will spend something. We could all think of alternatives that would be more effective still. A different president and congress might have spent the past 18 months making a case for such measures, but that was not to be. Nobody has explained how any politically-viable alternatives would be available now....At the end of the day, a small tax cut for "the rich" (small in terms of the incomes of the beneficiaries, small in terms of the overall deficit) should not be a big progressive issue. There are much bigger fish to fry, and we need the stimulus now.

Comrade Baker agrees. For myself, I'd just say that the spectacle of lefties blaming Obama for the current mess is a little hard to take. I have my own problems with both Obama's negotiating prowess and his distressing eagerness to lash out at his own base, but the time when Obama had some leverage to get a better deal was over the summer. His position at the time was clear, but congressional Dems caved in to their centrist and Blue Dog factions and failed to even bring up a tax plan for a vote. This made Democratic disunity so obvious that Obama simply had no credible negotiating position left after the midterms. He needed a deal during the lame duck session, and Republicans knew perfectly well that his own party wouldn't support a hard line. Under the circumstances, he did about as well as he could have.

In the end, this is the second stimulus we all wanted. It's not a very efficient stimulus, and it sadly caves into the conservative snake oil that the sum total of fiscal policy is tax cuts, but them's the breaks. Anyone who doesn't like it needs to spend the next two years persuading the public not just to tell pollsters they don't like tax cuts for the rich, but to actually vote out of office anyone who supports tax cuts for the rich. That's the only way we'll win the replay of this battle in 2012.

And now let's move on. With taxes out of the way, it's time to repeal DADT.