Saturday, November 13, 2010

The big tax kerfuffle

Congress comes back into session next week and among the first things to be considered will be whether to extend the so-called Bush tax cuts. The question before the House - and the Senate - will be whether to extend all the tax cuts past December 31, 2010, including the extra added reductions for the very rich who have taxable income of $250,000 or above, or whether to eliminate those extra reductions in taxes for the rich and just keep the middle-class tax cuts. As usual, the Republicans have drawn their line in the sand in defense of the very rich and are insisting that they will refuse to compromise on the issue. The Democrats want to continue the middle-class tax cuts and let those for the very rich expire, but the White House has been distressingly wishy-washy on the issue.

I fail to see what is so difficult about this for the president and his staff. Mr. Obama has said that he wants to keep the middle-class cuts and that the additional cuts for the rich are just too expensive, and he is absolutely right. Furthermore, a significant majority of Americans agree with him on this. And, very importantly, probably 95% of Democrats agree. Most importantly of all, 100% of liberals agree! These are the liberals who did not turn out in swarms to vote in this year's election. They were demoralized and discouraged by President Obama's constant calls for bipartisanship, by which he seems to mean kowtowing to Republican demands.

We did not elect Barack Obama to be a Republican-lite president. We elected him because we knew the country was headed to hell in a handbasket and we wanted a change in direction. We wanted forceful, effective, and empathetic leadership from a leader who would try to improve the lives of the masses of Americans instead of just the bottom lines of his rich pals. So far what we have gotten from this president is an abdication of leadership.

In all the legislative fights over the last two years, he has left the heavy lifting to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, while he stayed out of the arena, above the fray. Nancy Pelosi has delivered everything that has been asked of her and she has been demonized by the right-wingers for her effectiveness. Harry Reid has had a tougher row to hoe because of the arcane rules of the Senate, but when the chips were down, he, too, has been able to deliver.

But how much more effective both of these legislative leaders might have been had they had the support of a third partner in their slugging matches with the opposition. If Barack Obama had deigned to roll up his sleeves and get down into the trenches with his foot soldiers and if he had perhaps thrown a few punches at the opposition instead of always holding up his hands and offering compromise before the fight began, the legislative record of the past two years could have been even more sterling than it has been.

Now Obama has been given another chance, perhaps a final chance in the eyes of the progressive/liberal base of his party. He can again choose "bipartisanship" and lose his base entirely or he can stand fast and fight for principle, knowing that Pelosi and Reid will be at his side and all that party base, as well as a wide majority of Americans, will be behind him cheering him on, because this is what we want. We do not believe that the rich should be given special breaks. We believe they should pay their fair share just like the rest of us. This is a fight that we cannot and must not lose.

Ending special tax breaks for the rich is not only a political winner, it is a moral winner, as well. If Barack Obama does not see that and finally turn and fight those who seem determined to turn this country into the banana republic that I recently wrote about here, then he probably will be a one-term president, and he probably will deserve to be. And we, for our sins, will be dealing with President Sarah Palin.

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