The Big Progressive Project: Income Inequality

Last night, President Obama said:

Two years after the worst recession most of us have ever known, the stock market has come roaring back. Corporate profits are up. The economy is growing again. But we have never measured progress by these yardsticks alone. We measure progress by the success of our people. By the jobs they can find and the quality of life those jobs offer. [. . .]

That’s the project the American people want us to work on. Together. We did that in December. Thanks to the tax cuts we passed, Americans’ paychecks are a little bigger today. Every business can write off the full cost of the new investments they make this year. These steps, taken by Democrats and Republicans, will grow the economy and add to the more than one million private sector jobs created last year.

(Emphasis supplied.) Obama posits that the tax cuts in The Deal will create jobs and spur economic growth. I think that in fact The Deal was a terrible decision that will retard economic growth over the medium and long term because it exacerbates the biggest economic problem we face, income inequality. Buttressing my view is, via DougJ, this Harvard Business Review article by Justin Fox:

The big rise in economic inequality over the past four decades is partly the result of impersonal economic forces — technological change, mostly — but political decisions have played a crucial role as well. Financial market deregulation, tax-code changes, and all manner of other policy choices in the have promoted inequality in the U.S., as Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson demonstrated pretty convincingly in their 2010 book Winner-Take-All Politics. And similar moves were made in much of the rest of the world.

[. . .] Economist Mark Thoma put it well earlier this month:

There is an equivalent of a Laffer curve for inequality, but the variable of interest is economic growth rather than tax revenue. We know that a society with perfect equality does not grow at the fastest possible rate. When everyone gets an equal share of income, people lose the incentive to try and get ahead of others. We also know that a society where one person has almost everything while everyone else struggles to survive — the most unequal distribution of income imaginable — will not grow at the fastest possible rate either. Thus, the growth-maximizing level of inequality must lie somewhere between these two extremes.

Assuming we're near or have passed that growth-maximizing level of inequality, in the U.S. at least, the business community as a whole would be better off if the trend toward inequality slowed or reversed.

The Deal undermined the fight to lessen income inequality. Can Obama reverse it in 2 years? Last night he said:

if we truly care about our deficit, we simply cannot afford a permanent extension of the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans. Before we take money away from our schools, or scholarships away from our students, we should ask millionaires to give up their tax break.

It’s not a matter of punishing their success. It’s about promoting America’s success.

Does he really mean it this time? After The Deal, one can only be skeptical. Here's hoping Obama shows some audacity on this.

Speaking for me only

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    ROTFLMAO (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by Ga6thDem on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 10:21:10 AM EST
    on this:
    f we truly care about our deficit, we simply cannot afford a permanent extension of the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans.

    So who in their right mind is going to think that he's going to actually do this when he had TWO years to do it. He really thinks the voters are bunch of fools doesn't he?

    Yeah (5.00 / 2) (#37)
    by sj on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 11:39:50 AM EST
    Now he's talking about a permanent extension.  I forget who it was here who expected that he would start speaking about opposing that -- in order to create the next concession.

    He doesn't seem to think much of voters, that's for sure.  It's clear he doesn't miss my vote at all.


    Congresswoman Chu (sp?) (5.00 / 2) (#60)
    by MO Blue on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 02:09:28 PM EST
    said on NPR that we must have faith that Obama will deliver on this in 2 years.

    Another faith based initiative.


    Crossing my fingers! (none / 0) (#61)
    by jbindc on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 02:15:21 PM EST
    How? (none / 0) (#70)
    by inclusiveheart on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 03:36:19 PM EST
    Is he going to shame the shameless?

    Boehner's House isn't going to repeal those cuts.


    Again (none / 0) (#72)
    by CST on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 03:48:23 PM EST
    no repeal necessary.  This was a temporary extension.  You just let it expire or veto another extension.

    All the power on this one is with the pres.  He just has to be willing to raise everyone's taxes.


    That's all he has to be willing (none / 0) (#73)
    by inclusiveheart on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 04:45:59 PM EST
    to do on the eve of HIS OWN election?  LOL  This guy isn't that gutsy or selfless, imo.

    no (none / 0) (#74)
    by CST on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 05:03:51 PM EST
    it would happen after the election.  Just like it did this time.  No guts needed really.

    Exactly right. (none / 0) (#86)
    by AngryBlackGuy on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 09:49:16 PM EST
    Up next on Obama's agenda is (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by MO Blue on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 10:22:35 AM EST
    lowering the corporate tax rate.

    Too much of the nation's WEALTH... (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by Dadler on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 10:34:26 AM EST
    ...is currently horded by a small percentage of selfish and wretched Americans.  Until they are separated from it by equitable taxation and a good dose of shame, income inequality will continue largely unabated. But Obama LOVES those wealthy folks, wants to be their friend worse, it clearly appears, than he wants to be the friend of the working class.  

    Obama certainly TALKS about claiming to want to do things, but he has yet to follow through in any meaningful way. As long as he hates politics and feels that fighting is beneath him, as long as he view capitulation as better than principled confrontation...all his talk is empty noise.

    On top of that (none / 0) (#56)
    by cal1942 on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 12:31:51 PM EST
    light taxation of the wealthy means money flees the country in search of the highest returns.


    On top of that, lowering the corporate tax rate means more money to invest overseas.


    How many uber wealthy (none / 0) (#79)
    by BackFromOhio on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 07:32:23 PM EST
    people, such as Bill Gates & Warren Buffett signed a letter stating they'd willingly pay higher taxes?

    I don't think blaming the wealthy is most of the story.  


    What percentage of (none / 0) (#88)
    by gyrfalcon on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 11:58:13 PM EST
    the wealthy in this country are those folks, hmmmmm?  More importantly, what percentage of maximum campaign donors?

    Point I was trying (none / 0) (#97)
    by BackFromOhio on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 09:31:42 PM EST
    to make is that politicians on both sides of the aisle are pandering to the wealthy, but query whether the wealthy will cast their votes based on same?

    These comments by Obama (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by Anne on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 10:37:23 AM EST
    reinforced for me that he just doesn't get it.  The Deal took away the Making Work Pay credit, which, after netting out the 2% decrease in the payroll tax, means that a lot of workers at the lower end of the income scale are actually taking home less money.

    And I truly think so much more could be done to goose the economy and create jobs and make a bigger dent in the income gap if we could lose this manufactured hysteria over deficits; I'm sick of the deficit being used as a reason to cut or eliminate spending on programs that help those who need it, and totally ignored when someone decides the rich need even more - or we "have to" fight a war, or have a new "national security" program.

    It's just all so much BS.

    Yup (5.00 / 3) (#27)
    by smott on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 11:17:34 AM EST
    Haven't we been experimenting with tax cuts as a means of stimulus for about 30 years now?
    And failing?

    It's Reaganomics.


    That was my reaction to that passage (5.00 / 1) (#30)
    by ruffian on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 11:21:28 AM EST
    Thanks for endorsing tax cuts as stimulus. One of Reagans's good ideas I guess.

    the line that was really disgusting - (5.00 / 1) (#39)
    by smott on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 11:44:09 AM EST
    "Eliminate whatever we can honestly afford to do without"

    Who can "honestly afford to do without" more??

    The millionaires with that tax cuts savings?

    Or the working poor who are going to get less in their paychecks now?


    Manufactured Hysteria (5.00 / 1) (#57)
    by cal1942 on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 12:38:22 PM EST

    Raising taxes handles the deficit but our real deficit of concern is our balance of payments deficit.  That deficit which leads to yet more inequality is worthy of hysteria.

    Shipping our wealth overseas should be the real deficit issue.


    All so much BS... (none / 0) (#15)
    by kdog on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 10:56:37 AM EST
    couldn't say it better myself:)

    We've got a future to "win", no time to worry about how it is won...namely on the backs of stagnant wage/benefit cut workers, foreign and domestic, so the future's "winners" have more money than god.

    And don't get me started on the tax code...this credit, that credit, this deduction, that deduction...more BS and hustle and gaming.  What is wrong with a broked*ck exemption for those under 30k, 5% from 30k to 100k, 8% 100k-500k, and a top rate of 10% 500k plus...done.  No credits no exemptions no nothin...and the federal income tax code for individuals is one paragraph long.


    FYI (none / 0) (#58)
    by vicndabx on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 12:40:02 PM EST
    The Making Work Pay credit didn't work as well as intended for a lot of people and actually caused many to pay penalties.  Thus adversely affecting those it was supposed to help.  

    Treasury Inspector General

    We considered taxpayers negatively affected by the Credit if they were underwithheld at year-end and owed additional tax because of the Credit. If taxpayers' refunds were reduced, we did not consider them to have been negatively affected. Approximately 93 million taxpayers received refunds in 2010 as of April 23. Many of these taxpayers were advanced the Making Work Pay Credit and may have benefited. However, based on updated information from samples of returns filed for Tax Year 2009, we now estimate that approximately 13.4 million taxpayers were or will be negatively affected by the Making Work Pay Credit in Tax Years 2009 and 2010.

    That's not to say it couldn't have been fixed, but merely to say I don't believe the intent was there to screw people.


    "Corporate profits are up. " (5.00 / 1) (#28)
    by NYShooter on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 11:19:43 AM EST
    Its not hard increasing profits ; just lay off thousands and make those left do the work of the departed.

    These (5.00 / 1) (#93)
    by jbindc on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 09:06:26 AM EST
    Two years after the worst recession most of us have ever known, the stock market has come roaring back. Corporate profits are up. The economy is growing again. But we have never measured progress by these yardsticks alone. We measure progress by the success of our people. By the jobs they can find and the quality of life those jobs offer. [. . .]

    are the new talking points.

    Example - Sec. of Labor Hilda Solis writes in a piece on HuffPo yesterday:

    Last night, as millions of Americans tuned in and logged on to follow the president's State of the Union address, I was honored to have a front row seat. Sitting there in the "people's chamber," surrounded by current and former colleagues -- as well as a few new faces -- I listened to the president talk about the new realities and the new opportunities of a truly global economy.

    Two years after the worst recession in our lifetimes the stock market is roaring back, corporate profits are at an all time high, the economy is growing again, and in each month last year the private sector added jobs. That's progress. But we don't measure the progress of our nation simply by looking at the bottom line. Our progress, our prosperity, must also be linked to the opportunities available to us. In that regard there remains much work to be done.

    Just wondering...did he mention the expiring (none / 0) (#1)
    by ruffian on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 10:06:29 AM EST
    tax cuts in last year's SOTU?

    I believe he could take the initiative and use the bully pulpit to make it impossible for congress to ignore the will of the people this time. I will be the first one applauding if he does it.

    These comments (none / 0) (#6)
    by AngryBlackGuy on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 10:47:51 AM EST
    all miss the audience, the timing, the purpose and positioning of the speech and assume that Obama is an absolute idiot.

    [Which, although you may think he's the devil incarnate, is probably a little unfair]

    Chait states, more clearly and concisely than I could, the big picture game being played.  It's a game he may ultimately lose on, but at least acknowledge the game being played instead of the ridiculous concept that Obama deeply believes in tax cuts for the rich and other such nonsense.

    "Obama is positioning himself for a clash with Republicans by attempting to delineate their objections and declare his willingness to meet them halfway. When their positions inevitably prove more extreme -- when they're looking not to reduce high statutory corporate tax rates or excessive regulation but to open new loopholes and gut essential consumer protections -- then he has the high ground to oppose them.  The method has its flaws, but it's worked pretty well and I can see why he wants to return to it."


    The real discussion we on the left should be having is whether the tactic will work and what those with influence should be doing to steer things in a preferred direction.

    "Obama is an evil wall street capitalist" is a good t-shirt slogan but doesn't reflect what's likely occurring.  The picture is much bigger and the game more complex than some of this analysis.

    Hmmmm (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by jbindc on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 10:53:34 AM EST
    He's more than met them halfway on almost everything else. What's new?

    You know what they say about doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, right?


    With due respect (5.00 / 3) (#11)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 10:55:39 AM EST
    this comment is oblivious to the arguments I have made on The Deal for quite a while now.

    The truth is if Obama could not stand up to the GOP last month, what in God's name makes you think he can in December 2012?

    Do you really expect the Dems to recapture the House? The more likely outcome is the GOP capturing the Senate. Have you even looked at the electoral map for 2012?

    For the umpteenth time, "what Obama really believes" is irrelevant here.

    What he will do is.

    All that said, while Obama was a critical part of this post, the issue of income inequality transcends Obama.

    The problem is the Dem Party and frankly, people like you who do not understand how serious the problem is.


    Assumptions BTD (none / 0) (#18)
    by AngryBlackGuy on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 11:02:53 AM EST
    Assumptions.  We can't find a common ground of discussions because you continue to assume that letting all the tax cuts expire in the middle of a recession was an acceptable option, either politically or economically.

    I don't.

    I believe that Obama's big picture goals are shielding SS and medicare, preserving Obamacare, expanding cuts to GOP cash cows and raising taxes on the rich following the end of the recession

    If those are your long term goals, Obama's actions (not just words) support a path to that. A clear one that many better than me have detailed.

    In other words, instead of acknowledging that Kilgore or Chait are describing a real strategy that could be at play to reach Obama's long term goals (which are things you generally support), you focus only on the short term and declare that it is a proxy for the long term.

    People sacrifice battles to win wars but that concept is impossible in the political universe you've created, although it is undoubtedly true.


    Proving (5.00 / 2) (#20)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 11:05:09 AM EST
    that GOP propaganda has captured your brain.

    Just FTR, tax cuts could have been passed in January,February and so on.

    It was not forever.


    BTW (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 11:05:46 AM EST
    the battle sacrificed in The DEal lost the war is my thesis.

    Try addressing it next time.


    You're apparently the last (5.00 / 1) (#89)
    by gyrfalcon on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 12:15:18 AM EST
    man standing who still believes in "11-dimensional chess."

    Assuming -- and it's big "if" -- Obama is sincere, if he hasn't figure out by now that caving before the negotiations start means losing big-time, yes, he is an idiot.


    I first read "shedding SS and Medicare." (none / 0) (#36)
    by oculus on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 11:35:43 AM EST
    On what do you (none / 0) (#80)
    by BackFromOhio on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 07:37:46 PM EST
    base your belief that Obama wants to shield SS and Medicare?  

    Obama believes deeply that he (5.00 / 2) (#62)
    by MO Blue on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 02:24:21 PM EST
    needs one billion dollars to win reelection in 2012. He is not going to raise that kind of cash by selling campaign pins and mugs. The tax cuts for the rich and lowering corporate taxes should help him achieve his objectives.

    The picture is much bigger and much simpler than your analysis. Obama may well help his reelection chances by these actions but they do little or nothing for 15-25 million unemployed or those who had their home taken from them illegally.  


    Will these moves really help his (none / 0) (#65)
    by oculus on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 02:56:58 PM EST
    reelection chances though?  So much emphasis in the media on how Obama admins. is bad for business--must do more.  Cut taxes.  Zap business-unfriendly regs.  Etc.  

    I believe that between now and 2012 (5.00 / 1) (#67)
    by MO Blue on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 03:25:52 PM EST
    Obama will do much, much more to be business friendly. From what I've read, all of his new appointments are being made to show how really business friendly he is going to be. Keeping and expanding the tax cuts to the top 2% was a good start and cutting corporate taxes and getting rid of those pesky regulations should be a good follow up. The corporate owned media will IMO continue to press for more goodies and help give Obama cover for his actions. He had to give them all those goodies don't you know.

    But will they vote for him? (none / 0) (#68)
    by oculus on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 03:31:54 PM EST
    Depends on the Republican nominee (none / 0) (#69)
    by jbindc on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 03:34:40 PM EST
    And will the youth vote (none / 0) (#81)
    by BackFromOhio on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 07:48:48 PM EST
    and others devote themselves to the campaign and/or show up to vote?  I think 2012 will be a far different campaign.

    Obama's been failing at exactly that (none / 0) (#9)
    by observed on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 10:53:38 AM EST
    strategy for 2 years now. The jig is up.

    Ed Kilgore's piece (none / 0) (#12)
    by AngryBlackGuy on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 10:55:39 AM EST
    referenced by the Chait piece above is even more on point:

    "By playing this rope-a-dope, Obama has positioned himself well to push back hard against the conservative agenda. Having refused to offer Republicans the cover they crave for "entitlement reform," while offering his own modest, reasonable-sounding deficit reduction measures, he's forcing the GOP to either go after Social Security and Medicare on their own--which is very perilous to a party whose base has become older voters--or demand unprecedented cuts for those popular public investments that were the centerpiece of his speech. Either way, in a reversal of positions from the last two years, Obama looks like he is focused on doing practical things to boost the economy, while it's Republicans who are talking about everything else. Boring it may have been, but as a positioning device for the next two years, Obama's speech was a masterpiece."


    We should be talking about whether this strategy is correct, not about whether the moderate positions Obama offered are what he ultimately prefers as the No.1 option.

    Forget four dimensional chess. Obama's playing simple two dimensional chess and people are analyzing him on the basis of tic tac toe strategy (which is as likely to succeed as starting a game with the X in a place other than the center square).


    The strategy is NOT correct (5.00 / 0) (#16)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 10:59:47 AM EST
    The issue of the straegy, call it rope a dope, 11 dimensional chess, post partisan unity schtick, whatever you like.

    For you to act as if the issue of the strategy has not been discussed at this blog  BY ME is borderline dishonest.

    From first post I ever wrote at TalkLeft in 2006 to the entire 2008 primary season, to the stimulus to the health bill, the issue of political bargaining and Obama's PPUS has been a centerpiece of my discussion.

    You are wearing on my last nerve with this willful ignorance.


    No disrespect (none / 0) (#23)
    by AngryBlackGuy on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 11:10:44 AM EST
    but when I say "this is Obama's strategy", the response is "no, that's what Obama deeply believes".

    The core of the strategy is offering up compromises and appearing to be the one most willing to start at a place of agreement as a set up to expose your opposition's extremism and win the hearts and minds necessary to win the war.

    The counter i expected to hear here today is as follows:

    "The bump in Obama's poll numbers are real but will revert back to low levels if he gains no concessions from the GOP and concedes material issues like SS and medicaid.  The success of his strategy depends on his ability to effectively paint the GOP as extremists and he's been unable to do that recently."

    Now that's a fair argument and my biggest fear with the strategy (although the GOP is going to help when they actually release their budget and their craziness is exposed).

    But "Obama believes in tax cuts for big corporations and the rich and money for wall street and every conservative principle" is just weak thinking IMHO.

    his critics are smarter than that and know better.


    But this is not true (5.00 / 1) (#32)
    by jbindc on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 11:25:36 AM EST
    "The bump in Obama's poll numbers are real but will revert back to low levels if he gains no concessions from the GOP and concedes material issues like SS and medicaid.  The success of his strategy depends on his ability to effectively paint the GOP as extremists and he's been unable to do that recently."

    We would never say that because bumps presidents get after a SOTU (if they get one) are not real, but rather a result of good will and the ability of the president to address the nation with all the trappings of the office.

    He has also never been able to paint Republicans as extremists because I believe, deep in his heart, he doesn't feel that way (at least for some of them).  I think he embraces many of their policies and if you go back to his "Red State / Blue State" speech, I think that's evident.  That's not necessarily a bad thing - thinking people should be able to come together to get results, by the way.  But I think the things you project onto him  - he's a great progressive visionary - just isn't reality.


    Do me a favor (none / 0) (#24)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 11:13:25 AM EST
    Use the REPLY button if you addressing commenters.

    When a comment is to my post, I assume it is directed at my post and me.


    OK. Thanks (none / 0) (#26)
    by AngryBlackGuy on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 11:17:05 AM EST
    He's been told that before (none / 0) (#90)
    by gyrfalcon on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 12:17:35 AM EST
    by me and others and chooses not to bother.

    On Kilgore's piece (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 11:03:34 AM EST
    This is the better argument:

    "Obama's tone--the constant invocation of bipartisanship at a time when Republicans are certain to oppose most of what he's called for, while going after the progressive programs and policies of the past--should sound familiar as well. It was Bill Clinton's constant refrain, which he called "progress over partisanship,"  during his second-term struggle with the Republican Congress. During that period, the Republicans being asked to transcend "partisanship" were trying to remove Clinton from office. And Clinton wasn't really extending his hand in a gesture of cooperation with the GOP but, by creating a contrast with their ideological fury, indicating that he himself embodied the bipartisan aspirations of the American people and the best ideas of both parties. It was quite effective."

    And eventually, Clinton stood his ground. The Deal contrasts strongly with this approach.

    I do not see where Obama stands his ground.


    I think that Obama is following (none / 0) (#25)
    by AngryBlackGuy on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 11:16:10 AM EST
    Clinton strategy to the letter. That's exactly right. Your counter is that Clinton would not have conceded the Deal. "And eventually, Clinton stood his ground. The Deal contrasts strongly with this approach." you say.

    The counter-counter that I have is that Clinton stood in front of the nation and supported the Deal.

    In terms of counter-counters, I think that's a pretty effective one.

    If we're going down the road of arguing that Clinton voluntarily came out in support of a position he completely disagrees with, I've got nothing for you.

    We just aren't going to get very far.


    but when it came to the tax fight (5.00 / 1) (#29)
    by CST on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 11:21:04 AM EST
    when Clinton was president and had control over these things, he stood his ground and forced a fight, which he won.

    Obama has not done that.  He is president, Clinton is not.  But when he was, that's what he did.

    There is a huge difference between being a spokesperson for a party and being the president.


    Also (none / 0) (#34)
    by jbindc on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 11:27:50 AM EST
    Bill Clinton currently has to walk a very fine tightrope - his wife works for Obama.  

    What Clinton would have done (5.00 / 3) (#31)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 11:22:39 AM EST
    on The Deal is not clear to me. My suspicion is he would have caved too but I have no way of knowing.

    My point ihe would have been wrong to cave. The Deal was a great moment to take  a stand. Good politics AND good policy.

    I would have framed it in deficit hawk terms for politics sake.

    I would have embraced the Pete Peterson mantra.

    Made all the deficit hawks take a stand right then and there.

    Obama would have won.

    I do not see s imilar moment coming and frankly, I do not trust Obama to perceive such a moment and I doubt his fortitude to take such a stand.

    It's over. At least until a second term.


    Why might Pres. Obama act (none / 0) (#38)
    by oculus on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 11:42:23 AM EST
    differently during a second term?

    No more elections for him (none / 0) (#43)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 11:49:51 AM EST
    yeah he can (none / 0) (#47)
    by smott on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 11:57:44 AM EST
    Go further right...

    Timeline, timeline (none / 0) (#91)
    by gyrfalcon on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 12:20:51 AM EST
    For heaven's sake, Clinton "supported" The Deal because it was presented to him as a fait accomplis and the alternative was voting it down in the Congress and ending up throwing people off of unemployment, etc.  That's a very, very, very, very different matter from whether he supported O's approach to the negotiations, and certainly whether he would have agreed to such a deal to begin with.

    What is "the strategy" in service of? (5.00 / 2) (#35)
    by Anne on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 11:28:25 AM EST
    That's the question you don't seem to want to answer.

    Is the strategy in service only to "getting something done" regardless of whether the policy behind it gets us to a better place?

    Or is your focus still on the strategy being in service to Obama's chances for re-election?

    As for your Kilgore excerpt, I think he's dreaming the same dream you are.  I mean, has Obama pushed back at all against the GOP on important issues?  Has he spent the last two years helping make the GOP relevant by conceding and catering and accommodating, so that now he can deliver the crushing blow of pushing back hard?

    Has Obama not been playing Pragmatist-in-Chief for the last two years, constantly taking the right-of-center position and ending up with legislation that was "the best we could do?"  And from a policy perspective, are the things Obama is proposing actually going to boost the economy?  Spending freezes are going to increase demand and help create jobs?  Really?

    Again, we should be discussing the policy that gets us where we need to go, not the strategy that will get Obama where he needs to go.


    Answer (none / 0) (#45)
    by AngryBlackGuy on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 11:52:20 AM EST
    The strategy is in service of a slow, methodical move of the country's thinking back the left by highlighting the fact that the liberal positions are actually closer to the middle than the positions advocated by the right.

    I see this as the first step in a 20-30 year war to reverse the progress made by the right since Reagan took office.

    I don't think we'll know see Obama revealing his liberal side until term 2.  The goal now is just to stop the rightward drift.


    That has to be the most delusional (5.00 / 8) (#54)
    by Anne on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 12:28:48 PM EST
    thing I have read in a long, long time.

    For the last two years, Obama has been moving policy ever rightward on almost every issue I can think of, changing the Democratic brand to one that seems to want nothing to do with liberals or liberal ideas, normalizing authoritarian policy, and you're telling us that this is a strategy designed to improve the liberal position, and end the progress of the right, all culminating in the electric moment when Obama reveals himself to be The One, The Only: Liberal SuperHero, here to save the day?

    I don't think even Booman has it as bad as you do.

    Seriously, this is crazy talk.


    And (5.00 / 3) (#76)
    by chrisvee on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 06:41:45 PM EST
    he's going to go all liberal on everyone's a** when he has a Republican House and likely a Republican Senate...despite squandering two years of a Dem majority.

    I'm expecting my pony any day.  Complete with jetpack.


    Nah (5.00 / 2) (#77)
    by Zorba on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 07:00:19 PM EST
    I want wings on my pony.  And a rainbow-colored mane and tail, too.  ;-)

    yes I had a WTF moment too (none / 0) (#59)
    by smott on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 12:40:19 PM EST
    ...and I don't mean Favreau's oh-so-cute Win The Future...

    That 20-30 yr goal will be better served (5.00 / 1) (#63)
    by ruffian on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 02:39:05 PM EST
    by the slow, inexorable, process of conservatives dying off than it will be by this strategy.

    I can see you in 30 yrs after the health care system has collapsed and single payer is finally adopted - 'See, the Obama strategy worked!'


    So you're thinking Obama is (none / 0) (#49)
    by smott on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 12:06:18 PM EST
    ...actually in the process of 'reversing' Reaganism? Or at least the Reagan-right movement?

    Byt he way, which Oabma spokesperson (none / 0) (#64)
    by ruffian on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 02:42:32 PM EST
    told you the ultimate goal is to move the country leftward? I have not heard Obama say that.

    The Reagan Quotes (none / 0) (#66)
    by AngryBlackGuy on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 03:18:05 PM EST
    He wants to be the democratic Reagan.  People always interpreted his quotes on that wrongly.

    Reagan started the countries slow move Right.  He wants to start the move left.

    And let's remember now. Reagan wasn't talkingabout privatizing social security or ending the minimum wage or any of the stuff they do now. At the start, his policies were as conservative as Obama's are liberal.

    But the steady accumulation over 8 years made a difference.

    That is, I think, the goal.


    Wait a minute (5.00 / 2) (#71)
    by lilburro on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 03:38:47 PM EST
    when did Obama ever say he wanted to be the Reagan of the left?  I don't think he ever put it in those terms.  You can believe whatever you want about his motives and what he wants to achieve but thinking that interpretations of his Reagan quote back in 2008 are wrong because he clearly wants to be the "Reagan of the left" and that is what he MEANT is just putting words in his mouth.  

    I don't want to present myself as some sort of singular figure.  I think part of what's different are the times.  I do think that for example the 1980 was different.  I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not.  He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it.  I think they felt like with all the excesses of the 1960s and 1970s and government had grown and grown but there wasn't much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating.  I think people, he just tapped into what people were already feeling, which was we want clarity we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing.

    I think the health bill has potential to change the country as a whole.  But I don't know if people are going to look back 20 years after Obama is out of office and have anywhere near the same feelings the media has about Reagan.  In part because the Right is so vociferous, I don't know what it would take to turn back the tide right other than an open attempt to shift the Overton window.  Digby wrote about Obama & Reagan yesterday and it was pretty good.

    Take for example the whole notion that we are a "center-right nation" and the thesis of "What's The Matter With Kansas."  How are you going to get the average middle class person to realize that they fare better under Democrats?  Will the health bill with all its moving parts do it and will people just realize that?  I dunno.


    Oh, for the love of God... (5.00 / 3) (#75)
    by Anne on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 06:21:33 PM EST
    The first thing you have wrong is that Obama is a liberal - he most definitely is not.  He's not even close - talking some version of the talk is meaningless when it's constantly contradicted by action.  

    He's not a liberal, and neither are his policies or the people he's staffed his administration with.  The Deficit Commission wasn't the creation of a liberal, of someone who wants to move the country to the left.  His policies, executive orders, decisions regarding Guantanamo, and indefinite detention, his refusal to hold the Bush administration accountable for their actions, his DOJ's constant invocation of state secrets, the changes to Miranda with respect to terror suspects - that he won't define - the DOJ's defense of DOMA, his fondness for the "good ideas" of Republicans who would like nothing better than to just dismantle any and all entitlement and social programs, his discomfort with women making their own decisions, his refusal to get involved in the foreclosure fraud mess because it might help people who don't "deserve" it - I could go on, but this should be enough for most people to get that Obama is not a liberal and has no intention of moving the country to the left.

    For the life of me, I cannot figure out why it is more important for you to keep denying the truth of who and what Obama is, than it is to face reality.  

    At this point you're giving unrequited love a bad name...


    Based on WHAT?!? (5.00 / 2) (#78)
    by Yman on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 07:06:52 PM EST
    He wants to be the democratic Reagan.  People always interpreted his quotes on that wrongly.

    Reagan started the countries slow move Right.  He wants to start the move left.


    That is, I think, the goal.

    Seriously?!?  What on earth could possibly lead anyone to that conclusion?  Has Obama ever said anything along those lines, or is this just an extreme version of WORM?



    Oh. My. God. (5.00 / 2) (#92)
    by gyrfalcon on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 12:23:05 AM EST
    Kool-Aid poisoning.  I actually feel sorry for you.

    Obama stratergy IMO (none / 0) (#7)
    by Saul on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 10:50:16 AM EST
    Obama greatest concern since he lost the house in Nov is to secure his election in 2012.  He is doing everything that is political expedient to get to that moment.  He knows that the tax deal was not want he wanted but had he not passed it he would have destroyed any chance of re election.  Also the republicans would have passed the tax extension and most of the scared democrats to avoid political suicide would have gone along with them.  Even if Obama would have vetoed it in Jan I believe there would have been enough votes to override his veto and the rep would have gotten full credit for the extension.  

    IMO he is waiting for his reelection in 2012 where he will then leash his most progressive agenda, since at that time he will have nothing to lose.

    I think at that time you will see the Obama you really wanted to see but he knows that he must secure his reelection in order to create the legacy of his original campaign.

    So he is going to unleash his progrssive (5.00 / 2) (#17)
    by ruffian on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 11:02:46 AM EST
    agenda in 2013 with a Republican House and Senate? Good luck with that.

    The time to build support for whatever progressive agenda he ever had in mind was in the first two years of his term, when the demonstrated success would have preserved his congressional majorities.


    He'll have the (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 11:07:19 AM EST
    "most progressive second term since FDR" or something.

    Problem is FDR won big in 1934 and 1936 so that theory is not going to work.


    He risking it all on the outcome of the economy (none / 0) (#41)
    by Saul on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 11:45:39 AM EST
    in 2012.  If he shines at that time he might win the house back and not lose the senate.  If that happens the democrats will be more supportive of his programs because he  looks like a winner.  It all depends on the economy

    No (5.00 / 2) (#42)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 11:49:09 AM EST
    the Congress seems gone to me until there is another GOP President and another "throw the bums out" moment for the Dems.

    We will see (none / 0) (#44)
    by Saul on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 11:51:49 AM EST
    Sure we will see (none / 0) (#51)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 12:20:43 PM EST
    But the Senate is almost certainly gone and a wave election to sweep the Dems back in in the House is not in the offing.

    Obama can win you know and Dems not win the Congress.


    The only thing that could change this (none / 0) (#82)
    by BackFromOhio on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 07:50:45 PM EST
    is increase in the division within the Repub Party - between the Tea Party on the one hand and the others.

    2012 (5.00 / 1) (#50)
    by jbindc on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 12:17:20 PM EST
    The Dems have to defend 21 seats (22 if you count Joe Lieberman's seat - since he technically caucused with the Dems)  The Republicans only have to defend 10 seats.

    Exactly (none / 0) (#46)
    by AngryBlackGuy on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 11:54:03 AM EST
    This is all about the economy. If it does well he's in good shape. If it does not he was screwed anyway.

    May as well set up the best way you see fit with those facts.


    He's in good shape (5.00 / 1) (#53)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 12:21:48 PM EST
    either way most likely.

    But Dems won't win back the Congress either way.

    More importantly, it's not good policy in the short term in any case.


    Under what theory... (5.00 / 2) (#48)
    by Romberry on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 12:02:01 PM EST
    ...did Obama's 2012 electoral chances depend on extending the Bush tax cuts? I see no reasonable basis for your claim.

    Tax cuts seem to be what Obama believes in. The problem is that tax cuts don't work.

    Regardless, there was widespread popular support for allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire. Showing some spine and setting a Democratic agenda on taxes would have been, IMNSHO, far better for Obama and the Democratic Party's chances in 2012.


    Same would have (5.00 / 0) (#83)
    by BackFromOhio on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 07:53:01 PM EST
    shown him to be serious about cutting deficits which is also popular.

    BTW, evidently last night CNN did a poll asking whether voters saw increasing jobs or cutting social Security as more of a priority.  When increasing jobs came in ahead 3 to 1, pundits were astonished.


    Further proof (none / 0) (#84)
    by Zorba on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 08:39:55 PM EST
    That the pundits live in an alternate reality.  Must be nice for them in Versailles.  

    Not Versailles... (5.00 / 0) (#85)
    by jeffinalabama on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 09:25:57 PM EST
    Cloud Cuckoo Land.

    and pundits trying to (5.00 / 0) (#94)
    by BackFromOhio on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 09:16:14 AM EST
    create public opinion.... and some of them claim to be journalists!

    The Rep would have won and goten the full credit (none / 0) (#55)
    by Saul on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 12:31:31 PM EST
    for passing the tax cut extensions rather than Obama.  The scared democrats congress was not about to risk their election so they would have gone along with the republicans.  Even if Obama would have stood up and vetoed the extension in Jan there would have been enough votes from democrats to over ride his veto.  This would have been the sure end of Obama in 2012

    How would they have won? (none / 0) (#95)
    by Romberry on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 12:15:41 PM EST
    Democratic majorities in both houses at the time, plus a Democratic president with the power of the veto. (In other words, you're talking out of the end opposite your mouth.)

    No need to be vulgar (none / 0) (#98)
    by Saul on Tue Feb 01, 2011 at 01:40:49 PM EST
    The Rep has just won the house in Nov.   Obama saw the hand writing on the wall.  He had no choice but to go along with extending the tax credits across the board since he could not get just extending those under 250,000. His how party was not for fighting on what he wanted.  The tea party scared the democrats. The democrats although in Dec still were in power were running scared for their political life if they would have pushed hard not to extend the tax credits.  

    In January the new congress would have been able to pass the tax credit extension and even if Obama would have vetoed it( which would be the end of his 2012 re election if he had) there would have been enough votes to override his veto.  

    It was all about saving their political future and Obama and the democrats knew that even though the controlled both houses and the white house.


    Sorry, but no. (none / 0) (#99)
    by Romberry on Sat Feb 05, 2011 at 12:23:12 PM EST
    Your whole reply is nothing but talking points, and they are wrong on almost every count. Enjoy your Kool-Aid.

    Of course (none / 0) (#14)
    by jbindc on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 10:56:36 AM EST
    That too is a gamble since there is a very good chance that he will be facing not only a Republican House, but a Republican Senate as well.  His "progressive vision" won't get any further than the south portico of the WH.

    I'm glad he brought it up (none / 0) (#10)
    by CST on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 10:55:37 AM EST
    I know, I know, just words.

    But in the run-up to the deal, it really bothered me that no one seemed to mention the future fight in 2 years.  To me that was a sign of giving up.  This at least is encouraging that we're gonna continue having the conversation, and continue making the case.  It doesn't guarantee anything either way, but it's an indication that a permanent extention is not a given either.

    Are you kidding? (5.00 / 2) (#33)
    by Ga6thDem on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 11:27:22 AM EST
    The best chance Obama had to undo the Bush tax cut for the wealthy has already passed. Good luck with getting anything remotely like that passed through the GOP house and then if there's a GOP senate, then it even lessens the chances.

    all it takes is a veto (none / 0) (#52)
    by CST on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 12:20:48 PM EST
    it was a temporary extension, so it will expire in 2 years again.  After 2012 he has no more elections.

    Here's hoping (none / 0) (#13)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 10:56:26 AM EST
    It wasn't a bad speech (none / 0) (#40)
    by lilburro on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 11:44:27 AM EST
    I don't know what Obama is going to do when the budget actually comes around though.  Is he going to propose new investments in education and infrastructure and then have the GOP hack away at them?  How will that work with the budget freeze?

    My biggest disappointment is that nothing substantial will be done on jobs or the housing market.  He's lucky he gets to work with Republicans who don't actually know how to talk about that either, but still, the lack of progress there sucks.

    0-Hope + 0-Change = All-Bummer. (none / 0) (#87)
    by seabos84 on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 10:32:41 PM EST
    dday had a great post about this garbage.

    it sounds like the big Zer0's buddies are doing great ... cuz they are!


    Great post (none / 0) (#96)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 05:07:23 PM EST
    I didn't watch the speech.  Josh and I are on the road tending to health stuff and we decided to go to the IMAX and watch Hubble.  But I agree that the income disparity is straggling aggregate demand, the deal made the disparity worse and will now retard recovery.