Evaluating the Obama Tax Deal

Editor’s Note: Some prominent progressive authors give interesting insights into Obama’s recent deal for tax cuts. This article originally appeared on The Progressive Book Club blog.

Progressive opinion on the the president’s tax deal (and the base-chiding press conference that followed) spans the spectrum all the way from mad as hell to apoplectic. Well, that’s an exaggeration–as you’ll see from a couple of the items below–but not by much. Read on for snippets of early commentary from some of our favorite authors.

Ari Berman (Herding Donkeys): “A poll commissioned by MoveOn.org yesterday found that 74 percent of Obama volunteers or financial backers in ’08 oppose the deal. More than half said they’d be less likely to support Democrats in 2012 who back the compromise and would be less likely to donate to Obama’s re-election campaign. Pretty sobering statistics for the president and his team.” [The Nation]

Paul Krugman (The Return of Depression Economics): “[T]here’s a policy issue here, and it’s a tough one; you trade off the stimulus Obama extracted now for the increased likelihood that low taxes for the rich will be made permanent, crippling policy for decades to come. But there’s also a character issue: what we really don’t need right now is a president who blames everyone but himself, and seems more concerned with self-justification than with sustaining the alliances he needs.” [New York Times]

Gene Lyons (The Hunting of the President): “For Obama, justifiably accused of negotiating with himself in a futile quest for bipartisanship during the stimulus and healthcare efforts, this time was different. This time, he got Republicans to budge off square one. Plus, he avoided a bruising and futile confrontation over the accursed Bush tax cuts that could have paralyzed Washington for months.

“At minimum, the White House bought itself some precious time.” [Salon]

Gail Collins (When Everything Changed): “I speak for the broken-hearted Democratic grassroots. Finally they had a crystal-clear issue that allowed them to define what made them different from Republicans. Health care was maybe 50 times more important, but it was messy and cloudy. This was a clear, popular line they could draw in the sand: no tax cuts for people making more than $250,000.

“And to make it worse, it wasn’t even a compromise. A compromise would have been the tax cuts for everybody but millionaires.” [New York Times]

Ta Nehisi-Coates (The Beautiful Struggle): “[Obama's] anger at the Left–for basically being the Left–is as bad as the some of the Left’s anger at him for basically being a politician. It’s worse, in fact. He’s the president. You can’t preach to people about the evils of ‘tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires,’ and then wonder why you get this sort of push-back from the people to whom you were preaching.” [The Atlantic]

John Cassidy (How Markets Fail): “[F]rom an immediate macroeconomic perspective, and, hence, from the perspective of a President preparing for a reelection campaign in 2012, the tax-cutting agreement makes some sense. By boosting the overall level of spending power, it will reduce the chances of the economy falling back into recession sometime next year or in 2012. That is very good news for President Obama. Jimmy Carter, George Bush Sr., and George Bush Jr. all discovered to their cost that there is nothing as threatening to an incumbent President as an economic slump in the year or two before polling day.”
[The New Yorker]

Robert Reich (Aftershock): “By agreeing to another round of massive tax cuts for the wealthy, the president confirms the Republican story. Cutting taxes on the rich while freezing discretionary spending (which he’s also agreed to do) affirms that the underlying problem is big government, and the solution is to shrink government and expect the extra wealth at the top to trickle down to everyone else.” [Huffington Post]

E.J. Dionne (Souled Out): “What’s most striking about Obama’s deal with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell is the extent to which it only reinforces Obama’s image as an inside technocratic dealmaker. It turns out he will negotiate with anyone to get what seems sensible to him.

The problem is that this approach shortchanges the need to carry on a sustained argument on behalf of his overall objectives and rejects the idea that some “fights,” a word Obama uses with disdain (except, perhaps, when he’s criticizing liberals), are instructive and can help accomplish change over the long term.” [Washington Post]

Michael Meeropol (Surrender): “If we on the left want Obama and the Democrats to strongly back a progressive agenda, we have to make them do it. If there had been a strong progressive movement such as existed in the 1930s demanding universal healthcare, pro-union policies, increases in the minimum wage, a crash program to create a green infrastructure for energy and transportation and, yes, a progressive tax policy, we wouldn’t need to be having this discussion today. Instead of complaining about Obama we ought to be working our tails off to build a real movement that will ultimately force him and a recalcitrant Congress to do the right thing.” [The Nation]

James Kwak (13 Bankers): “[T]his can no longer be considered a two-year tax cut. This year, the Democrats gave in to the framing that letting the cuts expire would be a tax increase. President Obama has already nailed himself to the cross of ‘stop[ping] middle-class taxes from going up.’ With that on his resume, how is he going to flip-flop and let those taxes go up in 2012? He won’t win a vote to cut taxes just for the middle class with fewer Democrats in Congress than he has now. So if he wants to preserve the middle-class tax cuts, he’ll have to compromise again.” [Huffington Post]

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Tax Cuts for the Rich Extended

Bush Tax Cut is “800 Luxury Cigars Lit with $100 Bill” [VIDEO]

Obama Administration to Sue Arizona Over Immigration Bill

Photo credit: wikimedia commons


Patricia S.
Pat S8 years ago

Steve R,
How right you are!!!

Ernie Miller
william Miller8 years ago

our tax system is a mess out government officials have lost all credibility with the people and have no idea what we want or how to fix the mess they have created.

Kha Bliss
Past Member 8 years ago

Cease and desist taxing our labor. End the tax system all together.

Marti Williams
Marti Williams8 years ago

It is not an easy answer to anything...

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L8 years ago

Thanks for the 20 butterflies.

Sharon H.
Sharon H8 years ago

John T...
I had to read to the end of your post to realize you're true meaning because I was about to get mad...You're completely right about everything.

Sharon H.
Sharon H8 years ago

Steve R...
I know first hand about Dell. I live about 5 miles from Winston-Salem and there's something else about that little deal. We PAID them to come here. We outbid other cities for the "privilege" We also built them this huge facility and they promised to hire X number of workers and stay for X number of years. They didn't do either. they had to pay back the money we gave them, but not the cost of the buildings and other facilities. Plus, several hundred lost their jobs. It has remained empty ever since.
I just read in the paper today that the Waltons of Wal-Mart will be getting 37.5 BILLION thanks to the tax cuts and the Repugs were trying to justify giving someone $300.00 a month in unemployment. Well, soon no one will be able to buy their cheap Chinese stuff because everyone will be poor, then what will they do? BOO HOO!!

Past Member
Past Member 8 years ago

It's all rather sad...

Richard P.
Anonymous XX8 years ago

Its also important to note that included in the bill is a provision to "temporarily" lower Social Security taxes. That opened a door to negotiating away SS in the future instead of holding it sacrosanct as he should have.

The Demorcrats keep chasing the Republicans to the right, and both are just pawns of big business. Its time to end the two party duopoly, which starts by ending corporate person-hood. Support amending the Constitution to do so. Go to http://movetoamend.org/ and sign the Motion.

Lynn C.
Past Member 8 years ago