Saturday, December 11, 2010

"The day Obama became a Republican"

The thing to keep in mind about the political left is that they assume they're morally superior to the rest of us. We mainstream Democrats---we're known somewhat derisively as "moderates" in SF---lack backbone, have no principles, and are too willing to engage in the supposedly corrupt practice of political compromise. 

That's why being a leftist---or "progressive," as they call themselves---is so appealing to the dim and the self-righteous. All you have to do is invoke the the poor, rail against the rich, or insist that peace is better than war to establish your moral superiority---in your own mind, that is.

President Obama lashed out at these folks last week when they hammered his deal with Republicans on the tax cuts, because he knew they had nothing to offer as an alternative. (The only good point the president's critics make: lowering the estate tax on top of tax cuts for the rich is a "bridge too far," as Nancy Pelosi called it.)

How was Obama going to get an extension of unemployment benefits without a deal with Republicans? His critics don't say (Ralph Stone's letter to the editor in today's Chronicle, below in italics, is a good example). All they know is he should have fought more and fought harder, even though the fight over the Bush tax cuts was essentially lost in last month's election.

And in fact the deal involves more than extending unemployment benefits; it also includes reducing payroll taxes for working people, a tax deduction on college tutition, the earned income credit, and, with the tax cuts for the rich, maintaining the tax cuts for everyone else.

To hear local progs like John Burton, Paul Hogarth and Steve Jones tell it, Obama should have just said "no" to any tax cuts for the rich, a political stance they can afford, since they don't rely on unemployment checks to support their families.

Burton, a left-wing Democrat, is so delusional he still thinks the homeless are just poor people who can't pay the rent, that the street punks cluttering up the sidewalks in the Haight are an oppressed class of abused and neglected "youth," when it's evident to those unblinkered by ideology that these young people are living in Golden Gate Park and emerging every day to panhandle for money to buy drugs and alcohol. Poor babies!

Speaking of deal-making and political reality, local progressives botched the homeless issue ten years ago when they failed to recognize that there was an opportunity to negotiate with city liberals and conservatives on a consensus approach to deal with the issue.

Instead, then-Supervisor Gavin Newsom proposed Care Not Cash in 2002 to counter the peculiar political inertia that gripped the city's political leaderhip. In response city progs immediately adopted an antagonistic stance. Care Not Cash was a war on the poor! Newsom was heartless! But Newsom understood what city progs didn't---that city voters wanted something done about the increasing squalor on their streets and in their parks. Unlike city progs, Newsom proposed actually doing something about homelessness, and, as the Chronicle reported last week, his administration has had significant success on the issue since 2004.

An important city liberal Democrat, Angela Alioto, broke with the city's left on the homeless issue, and Mayor Newsom appointed her chair of the Ten Year Planning Council on homelessness early in his first term. In a recent profile in the SF Chronicle, Alioto proudly referred to her work on the council, which has earned her enmity from the city's progressives.

Dems: Backbone?
I urge congressional Democrats to vote against the Obama compromise legislation tying Bush-era tax cuts in toto to an extension of unemployment benefits.

It is time for the Democrats to show some backbone.

Let the Republicans explain to the American public why they want to give a tax break to the rich, which will add $80 billion to the deficit in two years, while they are unwilling to extend unemployment benefits for the less fortunate.

Ralph E. Stone
San Francisco

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At 9:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obama dug his own grave this week.

Sanders was all over this. Perhaps the weakest plank is the payroll tax holiday.

"I disagree. Social Security is not in trouble and won't be for years to come."

The article you linked didn't include Obama cutting the SSI tax by 33%. Of course, it's only for one year. But what will happen is that if he doesn't extend the payroll tax holiday next year, the Republicans will use it as a wedge to pry him out of office - "Obama is raising your taxes".

This is a tax that the middle class can agree to because SSI helps them the most - the more affluent people don't rely on it.

He should have stuck to his guns, and when the Republicans did not budge - just say "The Republicans felt that tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% were more important than Unemployment benefits".

It's not "The left" that is against Obama on this one - it's pretty much the entire Democratic Party.

At 2:46 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Choosing Bernie Sanders to represent those who disagree with the president's compromise with the Republicans is a fair choice. Sanders the socialist is such a purist he won't join the Democratic Party. Too capitalist, I suppose.

In fact a Gallup poll shows that most Democrats, like most Americans, support Obama's tax deal. Interesting to note too that 71% of independents support the deal. The only thing that's hurting Obama is 9.8% unemployment. If that doesn't come down significantly before 2012, Obama and the Democrats will lose the White House.

At 5:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

or drastically increasing the deficit - which this tax deal will do.

It doesn't just extend the ridiculous Bush tax cuts as is - it adds additional tax cuts. For 10 years the Democrats have railed upon the tax cuts as irresponsible. Now we've cut a "compromise" deal where we ... keep the tax cuts in place, as is. Where's the compromise? What did the Republicans give up? Nothing.

Nobody likes taxes. So of course, if someone says "Do you want a tax cut?" nobody says no.

Ask them if they want their schools closed, then get back to me.

At 7:22 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The tax cuts for working people make sense in a recession, when you want to stimulate the economy and encourage people to spend money. Deficit spending is necessary in a recession, and unemployment insurance and leaving more money in paychecks immediately puts more money into the economy.

Democrats have only "railed" against tax cuts for the rich, since the rich don't need them, and they aren't particularly helpful in stimulating the economy.

At 8:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very good points. Politics is the art of compromise. Politics in this day and age involves the allocation of scare resources...I hope that San Francisco's progressives shake off their self righteousness and their "belief" that they alone possess "perfect knowledge" ...if they don't then they too will be added to the junk heap of political movements.

At 9:49 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

My point is that self-righteousness is an important part of the image progressives have of themselves as the Good People. The rest of us are spineless and unprincipled.

The homeless issue in SF is a good example of how smug, self-righteous progressives screwed up an important political issue ten years ago, handing Gavin Newsom the issue he rode into the mayor's office. While Newsom was mobilizing city government to actually do something about homelessness, city progs were supporting Food Not Bombs and the Biotic Baking Brigade (the pie-throwers).

And city progs maintain their righteousness consistently, which helps them screw up other political issues in SF.

At 10:26 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Paul Krugman's take on Obama's tax deal is the most convincing. It's not that tax cuts for the rich are wrong or the deal will add to the deficit---though both are valid points---but that the overall deal isn't enough to significantly stimulate the economy and reduce unemployment. I hope he's wrong.

At 12:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Krugman is spot on. I am in the top tax bracket. I'll take my tax cut and put it in the bank. That does not stimulate anything. The banks can borrow money from the Fed for zero percent - they aren't hurting for money to lend, they just aren't lending it. So my tax cut adds *nothing* except for an addition to the deficit.

People with less money spend every cent they can get their hands on. That's stimulative. If anything, give a bigger tax cut to the middle class, and none over 250k. Fer crissakes, the middle class then goes out and spends their tax break, which puts it back in the pockets of the wealthy anyway.

The payroll tax actually is a regressive tax (flat, and capped) not a progressive tax, yet Sanders the progressive is fighting aganist the cut in the payroll tax because the benefits from it accrue mostly to those with less money - retirees who actually need their Social Security. The top echelons of the Republican party would just as well see SS dismantled, this could be the first nail.

At 1:41 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Latest polls show even more support for Obama's deal with Republicans.

At 1:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

from the article.

"It finds that among Democrats, a surprising 68 percent support the package. This is true, even though only 38 percent of Dems in the same poll support the provision extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich."

Basically, they don't support the extensions for the rich, but they want the UI extensions (that impacts them) so much, that they are willing to cowtow to the Republicans. Basically, this is Obama's "hostage" statement.

He put himself in this spot by letting the Republicans own the message. The R's figured out how to characterize it that if this package didn't pass - Obama was not getting people their UI benefits. He needed to say "Extending the tax cuts for the rich is unnecessary and damaging, but the Republicans are so greedy that they will block your UI benefits unless we give them huge tax breaks".

Of course, the big problem is that the people who should understand this and support him, didn't vote last month.

The Republicans won. Despite a Democratic Congress and President, they got what they wanted anyway. Obama got a health care package through that the R's are stopping up in the courts. The R's blitzed the D's in the election, despite nominating dozens of useless teaparty candidates.

You can't color this any way but as a disappointment.

At 2:13 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The notion that all Obama had to do was frame the argument differently to prevail on this issue is fanciful. Either he made a deal with the Repugs or all the tax cuts would have expired for everyone and there would have been no extension of unemployment insurance. The elections were over, so any more attempts to spin the issue at this point would have been meaningless.

People support the deal, including Democrats.

There's no doubt in my mind that Obama made the deal because he thought it was good for the country and the economy, which is still in recession for millions of people. Raising taxes now for everyone could push the economy further into recession, and two million unemployed people would have been abandoned by their government.

Of course as a Democrat and an Obama supporter, I'm disappointed with the election, which is entirely due to the bad economy and 9.6% unemployment. On the other hand, the Repugs will have to agree to share governance with Obama and the Democrats. If they refuse to okay the START treaty with the Russkies, for example, they will look dumb---it's really in our national interest---and obstructionist.

At 3:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"On the other hand, the Repugs will have to agree to share governance with Obama and the Democrats. If they refuse to okay the START treaty with the Russkies, for example, they will look dumb---it's really in our national interest---and obstructionist."

Who said they care about our national interest? That's what they've been doing for the last 2 years and the result was great results in the election. If they make things worse - they won't take the blame - Obama will.

At 6:16 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

It's a mistake to think that people who disagree with you, people you despise, aren't/can't be sincere.

It may be hard to believe, but Boehner and McConnell believe most of the stuff they say, as does Sarah Palin. I would feel better about things if Boehner wasn't in the habit of bursting into tears in public every now and then.

What is amazing is how the Republicans, after running the country into a ditch under Bush, managed to pin the ensuing recession on Democrats in last month's election. The moral of the story: high unemployment and a bad economy trumps everything, even common sense.


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