The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

December 7, 2010
Liberals find Obama's tax cut deal positively revolting

Announcing a tentative tax cut deal late Monday, President Barack Obama declared that there's something in there for everyone to dislike.

He isn't kidding.

Liberal Democrats are up in arms, saying he caved to craven Republicans who just wanted to give huge tax breaks to their rich supporters.

He announced the compromise on national television just after meeting with annoyed Democratic leaders at the White House, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, who engineered a vote last week in the House to extend the tax cuts only for those individuals making $200,000 or less a year and married couples earning $250,000 or less.

Even Obama doesn't agree with extending the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans, even for another two years, but he said that was the price for preserving the tax cuts for the middle class and for continuing emergency aid to the unemployed.

He said he wasn't willing to have real Americans be "collateral damage" in trying to make a political point. Any deal probably wasn't going to get any better for the White House in the next Congress.

But with the compromise, he reneged on a campaign promise, and he could be emboldening Republicans, who take control of the House in January.

If this is Obama's first bid at Clinton-esque triangulation (Bill Clinton ducked and weaved between Democrats and Republicans after the GOP took the House in 1994), it's not going over well.

Some on the left even talking about a serious challenge to Obama in the 2012 Democratic presidential primary, pointing to his refusal to go to the mat for including the public option during health care reform and for repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" law that prevents openly gay Americans from serving in the military.

"President Obama let down millions of voters who trusted him when he said he would fight for his core campaign promise -- ending the Bush tax cuts for the rich. When faced with Republican politicians whose position was overwhelmingly opposed by Democratic, Independent, and Republican voters alike, President Obama caved in the name of compromise. We hope that Democrats in Congress will not make this same mistake, and will fight against borrowing billions of dollars from the next generation to cut taxes for the rich today," Adam Green and Stephanie Taylor, co-founders of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said in a statement.

Their group began running TV ads last week urging Obama to stand firm on the tax cuts and showing him making the campaign promise while stumping in Iowa.

Obama directly addressed his critics on the left in a rather remarkable press conference today that amounted to a second-day sales pitch for the deal as the best he could get.

He said the criticism from some Democrats was the "public option all over again" during the health care debate. Obama said he accomplished signature legislation that Democratic presidents had sought for decades, but some on the left persisted in holding out for a government-run system that most Americans would not accept.

If that's the standard for success or having core principles, he would never get anything done, Obama said. He said being politically "pure" or "sanctimonious" would mean no progress.

It'll be fascinating to see how many Democratic votes the president can actually secure for the deal.

Senior Democrats, so far, are being noncommital.

"The tax proposal announced by the President clearly presents the differences between Democrats and Republicans. Any provision must be judged by two criteria: does it create jobs to grow our economy and does it add to the deficit?" Pelosi said in a statement today.

"The Democratic provisions will create jobs and help 155 million workers through tax cuts for the middle class, helping working families who are struggling and growing the economy. The Republican demands would provide tax cuts to the millionaires and billionaires, fail to create jobs and increase the deficit. And to add insult to injury, the Republican estate tax proposal would help only 39,000 of America's richest families, while adding about $25 billion more to the deficit.

"Republicans have held the middle class hostage for provisions that benefit only the wealthiest 3 percent, do not create jobs, and add tens of billions of dollars to the deficit.

"We will continue discussions with the President and our Caucus in the days ahead. Democratic priorities remain clear: to provide a tax cut for working families, to promote policies that produce jobs and economic growth, and to assist millions of our fellow Americans who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own."

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About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

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