In a recent riveting analysis of decision making by President Obama, Praising the Hostage Takers, liberal Paul Leob painfully laments the President’s overweening zeal for compromise.
Will Obama ever hold the Republicans accountable for their reckless and destructive actions? No matter how outrageous their demands, he keeps giving them legitimacy, first resisting, then compromising, then praising the result as bipartisanship. He's forgotten the basic lesson of negotiation -- you don't hand everything over before you start, particularly to people who have utter contempt for your values and goals. He's also forgotten the importance of fighting for your principles, so people have a reason to support you.
As I write, top brass from both parties are scrambling to come up with something feasible by Monday morning. Ultimately, the parties will strike an agreement on easing the deficit crisis, though it’s likely to be bad news for most of us, with options for changing the cost-of living formula for social security, applying a means test to both, and eliminating the mortgage deduction among those on the table. Meanwhile, no tax increase on incomes above $250, 000. It’s no secret there’s been a massive transfer of wealth going on to the upper class for some time, ultimately creating something like what you have in South America: you’re basically poor or well off. The upcoming scenario simply expedites that trend.
In my own case, a retired prof with a still working spouse, my own income from social security and a retirement annuity invested in over the years has been declining even as inflation heats up and Medicare premiums and deductibles soar. Meanwhile, I’ve not received any cost-of-living payout in social security due to inflation in the last two years. That doesn’t stop the Feds from taxing my social security heavily, as they count my wife’s income as total family income. It’s worse for others.
The scandal is that fifty percent of Americans pay no tax at all. Family size, mortgage exemptions, low wages, etc., contribute to this scenario. Unlike South America, in our country, the poor get attended to and the wealthy get their loopholes. Wall Street and the banks get their bailouts. You and I, the middle class, we’re the pack mules
But I want to get back to Obama. In campaigning for the presidency, he posed as the people’s protector. On the other hand, he hasn’t walked the talk since getting elected. Loeb, gives us a disturbing litany of what the President has “compromised” away:
Obama's almost pathological devotion to compromise started early in his presidency. Republicans and a handful of corporate-funded Democrats used the Senate filibuster to block action on issue after critical issue. Instead of calling them to account and marshalling public pressure against them, Obama responded as if their intransigence was reasonable, giving them instant political cover. He did this on health care, financial regulation, and attempts to pass a sufficiently large economic stimulus. On climate change, he tried to prove his reasonableness by allowing offshore oil drilling (just before the BP oil disaster) while securing not a single vote in return. Republican Lindsay Graham was planning to offer precisely this enticement to convince borderline Senators to support at least some price on carbon, and said Obama effectively killed the bill by leaving him with nothing to offer people Obama similarly refused to take a firm stand on ending the Bush tax cuts, which he could have simply let expire. He's now retreating on the debt ceiling battle, saying he might have to sign off on a deal that cuts spending now a the vague promise of reforming taxes later.
Anything to get the deficit ceiling raised: erosion of social security, betrayal of the environment, continuation of the Bush tax cuts, perpetuation of corporate loopholes, et cetera ad infinitem! Obama might take a lesson from Ronald Reagan, who raised the deficit several times during his presidency. Up against it on several occasions, the Great Communicator would take his case to the American people. And he always won.
Mr. President, call the Tea Party bluff. No deficit agreement? So be it! We’ll get through, but the Tea Party won’t.
Mr. President, if nothing else, exercise your Constitution option. Raise the deficit! Pay the bills!
We don’t need a Chamberlain buying peace for now, mindless of tomorrow. You don’t betray the American people to placate the opposition.
You want to be liked? I tell you this: Keep your promises and to paraphrase Carole King, “they’ll come running.”