The New York Times sees pluses and negatives in the deal:
For the first time since President George W. Bush began the country’s long slide into debt by cutting taxes in 2001, an agreement was reached late Monday in the Senate to raise income taxes on the rich. That’s what makes the deal significant: assuming it is approved by the House, it begins to reverse the ruinous pattern of dealing with Washington’s fiscal problems only through spending cuts.Matt Yglesias at Slate:
Nonetheless, this deal is a weak brew that remains far too generous to the rich and fails to bring in enough revenue to deal with the nation’s deep need for public investments. Given that the Bush-era tax cuts expire on Jan. 1, Republicans were forced to give ground on their philosophical opposition to higher taxes, but they made it impossible to reach a farsighted agreement that truly grappled with government’s role in fostering improvements to education, transportation and manufacturing.
From the viewpoint I outlined on December 13—"Cutting Spending to Obtain Tax Hikes Is Nuts"—this is a decent deal. Relative to what Obama had already agreed to, there are no spending cuts whatsoever in this package. In exchange, he ended up securing much less tax revenue than he was initially looking for. That's an epic defeat for the Pete Peterson and "Fix The Debt" crowd, but even though liberals are disappointed with this they didn't end up actually losing anything the way they were going to in deals that cut Social Security benefits or raised the Medicare eligibility age. Conservatives, meanwhile, can say that in the face of an objectively unfavorable situation they kept taxes remarbly low and have maintained their leverage to press for further spending cuts in February.Matthew O'Brien at The Atlantic sees a major flaw in the deal:
On to the next crisis.
The end of the payroll tax cut, and the lack of any substitute, is the biggest thing missing from the fiscal cliff deal. Without it, the Tax Policy Center figures middle-class households will see their after-tax incomes fall around 1.5 percent, which the CBO estimates will cost us around a half million jobs. Why has the payroll tax cut become such a political orphan? Well, Republicans aren't crazy about more stimulus, and Democrats aren't crazy about a tax cut that makes Social Security more dependent on general revenues, and thus less politically solvent. But there is a way around this. It's an idea Democrats used in 2009 and floated again a few months ago, before dropping. That's bringing back the Making Work Pay tax credit -- and doubling it. [...]Katrina vanden Heuvel, writing at The Washington Post outlines some policy priorities for the new year, including addressing income inequality:
If the Democrats want to trade tax revenue for tax credits, as seems to be the case, they should at least hold out for the most stimulative credit out there. Making Work Pay puts more money in the hands of working and genuinely middle-class households -- households that are more likely to spend that money, and thus put people back to work.
A fiscal cliff deal that raised revenue from the rich, gave tax credits to the middle-class, and delayed the sequester -- along with the no-brainers like extending unemployment insurance, patching the AMT, and doing the doc fix -- is a deal both sides could get behind. Democrats would get a bit less revenue than they want, Republicans would give up a few more credits than they want, and everybody would avoid the austerity that nobody wants.
We need to rebuild a middle class if we want to again have a vibrant, growing economy. That requires a lot more than repealing the Bush tax breaks for the top 2 percent. We should be lifting the minimum wage, empowering workers to bargain for a fair share of the productivity and profits they help to generate, and limiting CEO pay packages that give them multimillion-dollar incentives to ship jobs abroad or plunder their own companies. Congress and the White House might also imitate the Federal Reserve and keep pressing the stimulus pedal until we move much closer to full employment.National Journal's Michael Hirsh on Biden's legacy:
The previous two vice presidents, Cheney and his predecessor, Al Gore, significantly changed that power dynamic. But on Biden's watch the "OVP" -- Office of the Vice President -- has become something even more: almost a conjoined twin to the presidency, organically linked and indivisible from the Oval Office. Cheney succeeded for a time by creating a kind of shadow presidency, yet there's nothing shadowy about Biden. Indeed Biden remains, in many respects, the anti-Cheney. [...] if Barack Obama does leave a lasting legacy on gun violence that comes out of the terrible tragedy in Newtown, Conn., Biden will be a big part of it. And if anything like an agreement is reached on fiscal issues, Biden is likely to be part of that as well. His long Senate tenure, and the many relationships he developed across the aisle, are once again proving crucial.At The Washington Post, Eugene Robinson calls for national action this year on reducing gun violence:
Guns do kill people. Our national New Year’s resolution must be to stop the madness. [...]The Chicago Sun-Times agrees.
This must be the year when America says: No more. [...]
Politicians, beginning with the president, must show the courage to stand up to the gun lobby. They must do it for the children of Newtown. They must do it for all the 11,000 men, women and children who otherwise will not live to see New Year’s Day 2014.
The Washington Post's editors look back at FDR's legacy and draw from it lessons for the road ahead:
There was a lot more to be feared than fear itself: drought, disease, hunger, economic failure, Hitler. But Franklin D. Roosevelt, in addition to lifting the country’s spirits, had hit on an important point about the American character in that inaugural address, one that was essential to recovery. It was the idea that fear, the sort of paralytic, debilitating fear he had in mind, discourages people from action and dims their hopes. It strikes not only at the economy but at America’s most essential quality: its basic and enduring optimism.At The Los Angeles Times, Doyle McManus does what very few pundits are willing to do—assess their own punditry record. He writes a detailed mea culpa on all of his failed predictions and outlines where he got it right, too:
Will the state lead the rest of the country or set back the environmentalist cause?
If there is truly an American “exceptionalism,” it’s less likely to be found in concepts of limited government and divided powers than in the belief of the people, from the very first days, that things can always be made better. It was the refusal to acquiesce in fatalism and resign oneself to acceptance that created the New World and that has kept this republic going for well over two centuries.
Today FDR’s words may be more true than they were 80 years ago, when the country did face truly catastrophic conditions. Our problems as the new year begins are not insuperable; they are manageable but greatly exacerbated by fear, much of it created and nurtured by people who make a good living off it. Whether it is the fear that one’s pension will be cut, guns restricted, income taxed too heavily or medical care infringed, it is often exaggerated and dishonest. There are difficult questions to be dealt with in every matter involving economic progress and the best distribution of public resources, but they can be answered by rational and well-informed discussion. Fear, unreasoning, unjustified fear, has no useful place in it, then or now.
My only consolation is that I wasn't as wrong as Newhouse or his Republican colleague Karl Rove, who predicted that Romney would win by a comfortable margin. [...]If only all pundits would engage in a similar annual self-reflection on their accuracy.