Someone pissed off the Democrats. And everyone knows how feisty they can be while they're hot and bothered. The culprit? The leader of their party.
It has been truly fascinating to watch the Bush tax cut debate unfold over the last few days. The tax cuts, instituted in 2001 by President Bush, were set to expire at the end of this year. The fact that we're still in the middle of a massive economic slowdown has primed the pump for a classic tug of war between liberals and conservatives over the nature of taxation.
I don't think anyone really knew exactly how the situation would play out; President Obama wasn't really going to allow the tax cuts to become permanent, and yet he also couldn't get away with "raising" taxes in our current economy. The Republicans, still mid-victory lap from the midterm revolution, also have their ideological purity to maintain; they always have to fight tooth and nail for lower taxes.
Some kind of deal had to be made, and the Republicans have a hearty helping of leverage now that they'll own the House in January. I wasn't surprised about the particulars of the deal, but I have been shocked at the reaction from the Democrats: fiery rhetoric, murmurs of 2012 primary challenge to the president, and a refusal on the part of Nancy Pelosi to allow the bill to go to a vote.
(Why is it that conservatives are so much better than liberals at towing the line? Conservatives easily fall into goose-stepping stride while the liberals sidle up to the table, preparing to eat their young.)
This feels like an old school political dog fight. I just wouldn't have expected the cast of characters to be aligned in the way they are. In a weird twist, the president is essentially lining up with the Republicans(who are still in the minority, by the way) to push through a conservative tax plan.
I'm not sure what to make of this. Is the president, who I once thought was as shrewd a politician as there has been, making a huge tactical mistake? Is he truly weak and thus at the mercy of the outrageously vocal Republicans? Or is this really the best play available? It occurs to me that President Obama might be banking on the fact that the liberal base of the Democratic Party is the least threatening group of people in the cosmos. He knows he can get this deal punched through regardless of the objections of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. He also knows that he'll have to give up some stuff in order to be an effective president in the next two years. Perhaps he expects to come out on the other side of this thing looking like the only adult in an ongoing food fight. (I suspect he also knows that two years is plenty of time to win back the loyalty of the liberals. Liberals are, after all, fickle fish.)
I've always been a fan of harmony between otherwise disparate groups of people. Therefore it seems like a reasonable tax deal given the political and economic climate. I don't really think(having been warned numerous times about the severe limitations of fiscal policy) that extended tax cuts are going to save the economy. I think consistency more than anything would be helpful. Personally, though, I can't help but like the reduction of the payroll tax..that should help a bit. Tax cuts for millionaires? Hmmm. Perhaps I'll feel differently when I am one myself.