Triage is not pretty, but it is designed to save lives. On a battlefield, at a disaster site, or anywhere else that there are multiple victims of natural or unnatural violence, rescue personnel have to make spot decisions about who can and cannot be saved, and much more heartbreakingly, about which of those that can be saved have top priority. It sometimes means deciding that someone who could be saved won't be, because others have greater odds of surviving, and limited resources have to be allocated where most efficient. It is the definition of making life and death decisions. It is a means of attempting rational damage control in the face of extreme horror.
Part of the ostensible rationale for President Obama's terrible new tax plan is that it will result in the continued funding of unemployment insurance. Of course, the president himself compared the unemployed to hostages, being held by the Republicans with their economic agenda being the ransom. Embarrassingly, the president said you don't negotiate with hostage-takers unless the hostages might come to harm, which misses the entire point because hostages are by definition at risk of coming to harm. Terrorists don't take hostages and then threaten them with kindness. They threaten them with harm. This shouldn't need to be explained, but this means that by the president's calculation of when one should negotiate with hostage-takers, all one needs to do to get him to negotiate is to take hostages. And he will be compelled to negotiate. Automatically. Every time. And perhaps most astonishingly, he also clearly stated that he now expects to be able to trust the hostage-takers to play nicer in the future, as if he hasn't just demonstrated to them a certain means of getting their way. Which is not to play nice. But it gets even worse.
The president's claim that he had to make this deal to keep two million people from losing their unemployment benefits is long on emotion and short on a whole bunch of other things. Define them for yourselves. But even as the president, his staff, and his most ardent and loyal defenders keep pulling on this emotional drawstring, the fallacy of it, the proof that it is but emotional manipulation, stands personified in the two million unemployed who will receive no benefits at all from the president's tax plan. They are the 99ers. They are the people whose 99 weeks of unemployment benefits have run out. There is nothing in the plan for them. Nothing. We are supposed to believe that this is all about helping the people who need unemployment benefits, but two million of them have been completely forgotten. With all he gave away to the Republicans in order to get what he calls a good deal, the president somehow couldn't manage to get any help for the 99ers. When talking about his plan, he doesn't mention them. His staff doesn't talk about them. His most ardent and loyal defenders apparently have forgotten they even exist.
Maybe the president calculated that he could only get help for those whose benefits haven't yet expired. Somehow, he ignored the possibility that forcing the Republicans to vote against unemployment benefits-- over and over and over, if necessary-- might crack their will, as public perception coalesced into a calcined image of Republicans as enemies of honest working people who only want a chance to work; but for whatever reason he decided against forcing such a showdown, he still didn't come up with anything at all for the 99ers. He was so concerned for those whose benefits would be frozen unless the Republicans cracked, but he apparently wasn't concerned about those whose benefits have expired altogether. Maybe he determined that those two million people, and all who on them depend, had to be economically sacrificed in order to come up with the ransom to pay off the hostage-takers-- those hostage-takers who now have learned their lesson and will play nicer in the future. But maybe among all these clearly logical calculations, the president was thinking of this as a sort of economic triage. If so, it would be nice for him to say so. It would be nice for the president to acknowledge just how bad things are.
Whether or not it is spoken aloud, the lack of help for the 99ers suggests an even graver message. Triage is for disaster zones. And the only possible explanation for leaving the 99ers behind is that somewhere, somehow, consciously or not, a decision may have been based on a dawning realization that outside of Wall Street, the economy is a disaster. And because of that, a further decision has been made that while some may be temporarily economically saved, some won't be. And even worse, the some that won't be will be and are being completely forgotten. And the disaster plan seems to be built around the failed neoliberal economic model of tax and benefit cuts, rather than the traditional and successful Keynesian economic model of direct job creation. Which means we will have a lot more economic triage to come.