This isn't going to be much of a diary because the answer to the title is both simple and obvious. But I don't see anyone acting as if Obama has any reason to compromise of the Bush tax cuts other than [insert your favorite pejorative about Obama here], so I'm putting in my two cents.
Obama is going to compromise with the Republicans on the Bush tax cuts because he wants to extend unemployment benefits. The Republicans have already proven that they can stand together against that extension. Which means they have something Obama wants. He has something they want. So Obama is trying to cut a deal.
Mind you, I think the Bush tax cuts helped destroy the country. I want a millionaire's tax of at least 50%. We built what we think of as modern America largely during the era when the highest marginal tax bracket started at $1 million (or higher) and the highest marginal rate was 70-91%. That's how we afforded to build the interstates, and the bridges, including both the Golden Gate and the Bay Bridges here in the Bay area where I live, and much of our critical infrastructure. Since Reagan, we've been living off the fat, and the fat is long since gone. It's time those who benefit from our system the most by earning huge incomes started paying into the system again. You don't have to convince me.
But I also see that unemployment benefits have expired for 2 million people. The cost in human terms for those unemployed workers and their families is enormous. A lot of these people, and their families, are going to be out in the street if their unemployment benefits run out. The broke and broken social services systems in the states likely cannot deal with the added burden. Demand for goods and services will fall--the flip side of that oft-quoted $1.90 we get back for every $1 spent for unemployment is that the economy takes a $1.90 hit for benefits lost--threatening the already sickly economic recovery. Not extending unemployment benefits is a really bad idea.
But the Republicans play hardball. They are willing to throw 2 million people under the bus to get their millionaires' tax breaks. Some of them are even eager to do it.
And Obama wants to try to save those people. So he's doing what's actually the politically unpopular thing, and compromising with the Republicans to get it done.
I know, I know. It seems like we've been here before with Obama. It seems like it's his m.o. He is timid. President Bambi. The Great Appeaser. I even saw one comment in another diary that claimed that Obama was worse than Neville Chamberlain.
Those who make these arguments on this issue, however, fail to take into account the political power balance. The sad fact is, the Republicans can hold, and are holding, 2 million people and their families hostage, against getting their millionaires' tax break.
It pains me to say this, but if, in the face of that hard cold political fact, Obama can cut a deal where that tax break only gets extended by 2 or 3 years, in exchange for extension of unemployment benefits for a year or 13 months, it will be a good result. Not a good political result for Obama, or even for Democrats. But a good result for 2 million people and their families who are about to go under. And it will be a good result for the economy, because the ability those two million people to buy goods and services won't vanish overnight (or more correctly, would be restored). Which means, no matter how bitter a pill it may be for us to swallow in the wake of our electoral defeat last month, a tax cut compromise--the price of saving those two million people--should be good for the country.
I've been extremely critical of President Obama on many issues. I feel betrayed that he didn't prosecute torturers. I'm disappointed that he lost control of the narrative some time during the middle of the health care fight. His DODT repeal efforts have been weak despite strong public support. And so on. But this, the tax cut compromise, isn't that.
This is a principled man doing what it takes to save 2 million unemployed from hitting the streets, even though he will pay a political price, even though it makes him look weak.
Strangely enough, that's the Obama I thought I voted for.