I think I've spotted the mother of all wedge strategies that the Dems could use with respect to the expiring Bush tax cut issue.
At the moment, it appears that Dems are slowly but inexorably headed toward caving on the conservatives demand to include the top 2% in the tax cut extension--at least for a year or two. They are too afraid that they can't battle the attractive lie that giving tax breaks to the rich "stimulates the economy," "creates jobs" or some other such nonsense. What if there's a way to come out with a big win--policy and political--no matter how the Republicans decide to play the issue? Details below.
The criticism of the Obama administration’s rollout of the financial system recovery plan, as presented by Sec. Geithner, focused on the "lack of details" and that it left too much "uncertainty" in play with respect to the mortgage-backed securities and their derivatives that have been made "toxic" by the avalanche of foreclosures and potential foreclosures throughout the country.
Below, I propose a plan that, I believe, has the potential to:
- Give strong incentives to both borrowers and lenders involved with underwater mortgages to avoid foreclosure in a way that still exacts substantial accountability for their financial decisions;
- Create a means to compute a market valuation for these mortgages and the securities which derive from them;
- Offer a means whereby a lender can immediately mark-to-market (for investor transparency) while reducing its asset base more gradually;
- Help prevent millions of mortgages from reaching foreclosure will still requiring borrowers to pay 100% of their borrowed money back;
- Offer a chance that the taxpayers might accomplish all of the above at a profit.
Progressives all recognize the lengths to which the GOP will try to frame their policies as "good vs. evil", "us vs. them", "winning vs. losing", and other variations of zero-sum formulations. But do we recognize how often play along, even as we battle their frames?
More about the War Frame and how Obama is handling it on the flipside...
As I've been doing neighborhood canvassing and informally talking to colleagues and friends, I've noticed that NOBODY really defends the Republican excesses--not even the committed Repubs in this dark red county of mine (71% Bush in 2004). There is, however, a very stiff resistance amongst many social conservatives and tax conservatives to voting for Dems.
I've found an alternate approach to these folk that's very promising. Details below.
[The UNI tax idea discussed in this diary was first presented in Progressive Tax Relief, part I
How many progressive ideas get ground up in the political grinder of "Democrats just want to raise your taxes?"
Well, the UNI tax concept would allow Democrats to combine the ideas of economic justice AND tax relief, instead of always having to argue for the former at the expense of the latter.
This diary suggests some of the positive political synergies that are enabled by the UNI tax concept and why promoting the UNI tax idea in all 50 states can help Dems--particularly those in red states--freshen their image as a party of new ideas.
This is the first of a series of diaries attempting to outline a new direction and suggest some policies that are simultaneously: 1) good policy, 2) part of a long-range strategic shift to sustainability, and 3) form a strong platform from which to retake the "red states."
Many of these ideas aren't mine and they aren't necessarily brand-new. But they haven't been connected, as far as I know, together into a coherent whole. I would hope that Dems running in 2006 and 2008 for national and state offices--particularly those running in "red" districts and states--considering trying some of these out.
In Part I (after the break) I discuss one of the centerpiece components--revisioning our tax system so that it changes the usual political alignments utterly and makes truly progressive approaches to social investment much more feasible. BTW, this revisioning actually allows Dems to be in favor of tax relief...
I like it that the Dems seem fit to go to the mat against the corporate Republicat agenda for social security. But I'm disappointed that they don't seem to be willing to grasp firm hold of a ready-made opportunity to give the GOP a Wedgie....wedge issue, that is.
Recently diaries by georgia10 and SanJoseLady have vehemently questioned why the Dems seem adverse to presenting a competing plan for SS reform. Add me to the list because not only do we have an alternative, but it's one that will put the GOP into quite a difficult spot.
More after the break.
Here's an ad to change the field of battle.
I suggest that the reason Kerry hasn't put the Iraq war vote flip-flop controversy to rest is because the ideal time hasn't yet arrived for it. Many, many sympathetic pundits and bloggers have said how easy it would be to forcefully regain the upperhand on the Iraq issue, so why doesn't he? I believe that he is playing a clever waiting game-waiting to deliver the knockout blows at the debates. When the question comes up (we all know it will), he can look Shrub in the eyes and answer it as follows:
"Mr. President, when I voted to give you the authority to go to war I honored you, as millions of Americans honored you, with our trust. We trusted you to check and re-check your evidence before you committed us to war. We trusted you to exhaust all diplomatic avenues before you committed us to war. We trusted you to have a detailed, organized, flexible, effective plan for the post-war before you even considered committing us to war. Sir, you did none of these well, and I and a majority of Americans feel betrayed by your performance. You didn't listen to dissenting voices in the CIA about the evidence. You didn't listen to generals, long-time allies, fellow Republicans-anybody who didn't already agree with you-even though they had legitimate concerns that would have improved planning. You didn't listen to anybody who suggested that our troops might not be met with flowers. You committed us to war in such haste that you sent our troops on their way without adequate armor. The buck stops with you, sir. Americans trusted you with the decision about going to war; I trusted you with my vote. Now you call us flip-floppers because we hate how you misused our trust. Sir, have you ever acknowledged to the American people that you made a mistake, any mistake, in taking us to war the way to did?"
Addressing this to his face, talking to him (no matter who asks the original question), delivers a powerful non-verbal signal of strength-that Kerry has the cojones to speak truth to power. It also has a good chance of triggering a reaction in Bush that will finish him as "leader." Doing this earlier, in stump speeches, doesn't leverage the direct authentic power (not to mention the audience) of the face-to-face confrontation and it allows Bush and the evil spin conglomerate to test all kinds of responses and lessen the blow. By saving it for the debates, he gets to have Bush respond without any benefit of spinmeister advice and he gets to confound expectation positively by laying a groundwork of "nuance" and "waffling" only to destroy it suddenly in the debates.
Bush recently suggested
that "looking at" the Fair Tax/National Sales Tax
idea of replacing the income taxes with a 23% national sales tax (plus state sales taxes on top of that !?!). Love to see him put into the Repub platform because it will play into the Two Americas theme perfectly (very regressive - puts poor workers into the 35-40% tax bracket, combining payroll and sales taxes) (discussed more fully by E.J. Dionne
). But don't get your hopes up.
However, it does bring up an issue for us. We need to find a coherent approach to taxes and reform that gives us a chance to correct the Bush deficit nightmare AND address Social Security and Medicare underfunding AND wage and employment stagnation AND social necessities such as universal healthcare and quality education funding. Although K/E have pragmatic positions and ideas for all of these in the short-term, they don't form a coherent approach for the medium and long term. The Repugs will, once they're in the opposition again after Nov 2, have a field day trying to divide and conquer our agenda (diary) with the "how will it be paid for?" and "it doesn't add up" and "taxes are stifling our economy". We can probably keep fighting this old fight for a while (with renewed vigor thanks to the appalling ineptitude of the Bushcons), but I think we have an opportunity to support an approach that will change the lines of class warfare permanently for the betterment of us all.
The idea I like is the Automated Payments Transaction tax (APT tax) which was proposed by a retired U of Wisc economics professor, Ed Feige. His paper and a forum discussing the proposal are online. Interestingly, this idea appeals to the economic libertarian conservatives and has recently been promoting on some right-wingish radio talk shows. But, I believe it cuts very well for progressives as well and I'd prefer that we be in the discussion from the beginning. Check it out and let me know what you think. I summarize the idea and discuss its possible implementation and political implications in more depth below the fold.