There are two mind-bogglingly stupid narratives floating around among apologists for the "deal" to which Obama just surrendered to. The first is that this is a politically inopportune time for choking off tax giveaways to the rich. The second is that Obama is positioning himself for permanently revoking the tax cuts for the rich in two years when the deal expires. Both arguments are rubbish of the highest order...
"But we don't have 60 votes in the Senate! We can't overcome a Republican filibuster no matter how much we want to!!!"
Am I missing something here, or has everybody conveniently forgotten the budget reconciliation maneuver used to pass health care reform just a few months ago to bypass a Republican filibuster? If the majority could use that to pass a health care bill, certainly they could use it on a tax cut bill, right? So why didn't they? Out of fear of being seen as "arrogant" for being an outgoing majority in a lame-duck session muscling through a suspension of tax cuts that they would claim voters rejected on November 2?
First of all, who cares if they did? This WAS an easy argument to win--much easier than the health care bill--if anybody had bothered to make it. The more Republicans insisted on unpopular tax cuts for the rich, the more they'd damage their brand heading into their new Congressional majority. Secondly, it reinforces what a moronic move it was for Congress to adjourn in the fall before the election rather than dealing with the tax cuts before the lame-duck session. In that sense, Congressional leadership should recognize that this sellout was not exclusively Obama's fault and that it takes some chutzpah for Democratic Congressional leaders to express their outrage with him now.
And frankly, I don't think it would have even taken a reconciliation maneuver in the Senate. If Obama and the Democratic Party had begun putting the pressure on Republicans like Scott Brown and Olympia Snowe, as well as some of the corporate Democrats who support more tax cuts for the rich, he could have rallied the public to a cause polls show they're already sympathetic towards. Instead, Obama chose to telegraph his surrender on tax cuts within a few moments into his November 3 press conference discussing election night losses with the media. At every stage of this would-be fight, Democrats at every level chose the most hair-brained approaches imaginable.
Even more delirious is the repeated insistence that these tax cut extensions are only "temporary"....a product of a "politically impossible situation" that will surely improve in 24 months. The politically impossible situation in question is a Democrat controlling the White House and his party holding 58 Senate seats and more than 250 House seats. Historically speaking, it's very rare for a situation to be more accommodating than this. Yet it seems none of the "compromise" apologists are willing to address the fact a much more hostile political situation awaits them in 24 months.
The bottom line is that the Bush tax cuts for the rich just became the Bush/Obama tax cuts for the rich...and they just became permanent. Let's say Obama takes his cause to the American people in his 2012 re-election effort, provided he even bothers to run for a second term at this point, and Americans rally to his argument and re-elect him by a decisive margin.
Even if that happens, the Republicans will be the majority party in at least one House Congress in 24 months.
The GOP has already taken control of the House and controls the levers of redistricting in most pivotal states, most likely fashioning themselves an even larger majority following the 2012 elections. And the Democrats are defending 24 Senate seats in 2012, including some very challenging ones, compared to the Republicans' 9. Democrats will be hard-pressed to even hold the Senate in 2012 let alone gain the 60 seats needed to avoid the "politically impossible situation" they claim they're in now with a decisive 58-seat majority.
And no matter how decisively Obama may win the tax cut extension argument two years from now--again, assuming he even bothers to make the argument--there is zero chance a Republican Congress will allow tax cuts for the rich to die without holding the same threat they're making now that they'll take the middle-class tax cuts down with them. And once again, fearing the backlash of raising taxes on the middle class, Obama will capitulate and extend the tax cuts for the rich still longer. Under what plausible scenario can these tax cuts for the rich die in the foreseeable future? Maybe I'm missing something, but far as I can tell they're here to stay.
At this point, I'm more interested in taking bets on a couple of things. First, how long into the new Congressional session until Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats put together yet another tax cut proposal for the rich? And second, how long will it take for Obama to wave the white flag of surrender and "reluctantly" sign on to the next tax cut for the rich on the grounds that "he had no other choice in a politically impossible situation"? My personal guesses....on the first question, three months. On the second question, three months and one hour.