More on Taxes, The Deficit And Political Bargaining

Kevin Drum:

We liberals keep thinking that anti-tax fever has to crest any time now, and I remember a slew of magazine pieces predicting exactly that around 2006-07. But it hasn't happened yet. Or, more accurately, I guess I should say that Democrats are still scared witless by the idea of proposing a broad tax increase, and the evidence suggests they're right to be.

What evidence is Kevin Drum referring to? The last time taxes were raised in the United States was in 1993, by Bill Clinton. He won reelection in a landslide. The issue is simple - what is the best policy? Because good politics follows good policy. What's even more interesting is that here is an issue where the President of the United States does have immense power - he can veto any measure on the question of the Bush tax cuts. Indeed, he can do it AFTER his last election campaign, November 2012.

This is one issue where the President has the dominant hand. He should play it.

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    He IS playing it (5.00 / 3) (#2)
    by sj on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 12:06:37 PM EST
    This is one issue where the President has the dominant hand. He should play it.

    He's just not playing with deck that you seem to think he is.

    The old maid deck sucks (5.00 / 3) (#5)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 12:34:10 PM EST
    you assume (wrongly, i aver) (5.00 / 3) (#3)
    by cpinva on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 12:06:51 PM EST
    that pres. obama sincerely wants to do the right thing (the right thing defined as allowing the bush tax cuts to finally expire), but feels constrained by "circumstances". i have seen no evidence to support this assumtption in real life.

    This is one issue where the President has the dominant hand. He should play it.

    That would mean addressing the little (5.00 / 2) (#6)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 12:36:23 PM EST
    pi$$ant people like me.  Ronald Reagan did it, Bill Clinton did it, but truly....this President does seem to look down his nose at me.  I cannot be trusted with the truth, I cannot be trusted with anything other than manipulating a vote out of and that's about it.

    Meanwhile, in Afghanistan: (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by oculus on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 12:44:36 PM EST
    2.4 mil.

    How long will this last?


    Well, at least Germany (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by Zorba on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 01:06:33 PM EST
    helped pay for this, we didn't pay for the whole thing.  Maybe we should bill the Russians and the Taliban, though.  This is something that they, in large measure, "broke," after all.

    hey, if you would just buy some caviar (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by observed on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 12:51:44 PM EST
    and $100 ham and sit down for  a light snack with the President, he wouldn't dismiss you for your income class. That's fair.

    Caviar? $100 ham? (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by Zorba on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 01:00:23 PM EST
    Hey, I thought Obama was into "beer summits."   ;-)

    Only for professors and cops. (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by jeffinalabama on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 01:07:12 PM EST
    For a summit with significance beyond two individuals, it's the other menu.

    Hahahaha! (5.00 / 2) (#26)
    by Zorba on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 01:30:30 PM EST
    It depends upon the audience he's "playing" to, I guess.   ;-)

    I helped Hillary get the rollcall vote... (5.00 / 4) (#35)
    by Pacific John on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 02:01:19 PM EST
    ...in Denver, by organizing the pledged delegates so they could petition for a vote, something Obama opposed at his meeting with top HRC donors at the Mayflower hotel.

    Part of this was to produce and distribute interviews from campaign staff and volunteers on the unprecedented heavy-handed tactics of the BHO campaign. The bottom line was that Obama did what was legal to win, but as he learned in Chicago, laws, not party rules, get you in trouble with the cops. If you had a voting majority, you could fabricate or shred pages of caucus votes. The press ignored this, but the HRC campaign issued press releases, and we ended up gathering interviews on it from various caucus states.

    To make a long story short, we interviewed a former member of MLK's staff, who later worked with Obama, and regularly took smoke brakes with him. Her stories about Obama's thinking were too explosive for the average Hillary supporter circa the summer of '08, but mo longer seem explosive. In one case, in an anti-recidivism program, a jailed teen asked Obama, the most important person he'd ever talked to, to help provide food, clothes and blankets for his freezing, starving bothers and sisters stuck with their dysfunctional mother. In the footage, the civil rights veteran recounts Obama unleashing on the young prisoner in language like you'd expect from Limbaugh, how the US is the land of opportunity, and anyone who doesn't rise to great success is asking to fail. So much for the young kids starving in a cold Chi winter. I'll break out the footage if it ever makes a useful difference.

    I haven't been able to see much difference between Reagan and Obama since.


    Disheartening (5.00 / 2) (#39)
    by Militarytracy on Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 03:06:29 AM EST
    He does seem to unleash on people when they are down.  He beats up on those who the system serves poorly or abuses, while ingratiating the elites and privileged and implying that they have honestly earned everything they have that is in excess of the average American. Even though many of the people he pals around with have clear histories of all sorts of lapses of ethics and integrity.

    My best hunch (none / 0) (#41)
    by Pacific John on Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 11:18:28 AM EST
    ... is that he's like one of those frat guys who grew up in an upper class family, fixated on social success and has no real connection with lesser groups. His life story is that he went to Chicago to find himself and ran a voter registration project. From what I know, he had emotional distance from people who suffered.

    This again reminds me of Reagan, who had emotional distance from nearly everyone, but acted cool at all the right times.


    I saw (5.00 / 2) (#43)
    by Ga6thDem on Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 12:43:47 PM EST
    someone on TV or somewhere talking about intellectual intelligence, social intelligence and emotional intelligence and it made me think of Obama. He probably scores high on intellectual intelligence, mediocre on social intelligence and near zero on emotional intelligence. If you think of him in that way, it makes a lot of things much easier to understand.

    Yes... (5.00 / 1) (#48)
    by Pacific John on Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 01:46:20 PM EST
    and the way elites in media and govt talk ignores savvy, as if voters in the New Deal, civil rights, and progressive eras didn't exist. The people who ignore the savvy and intelligence of the working class were the ones who gave us this fiasco in the '08 primary, and would strenuously like to ignore that the majority of Dems - heavily working class - voted for the candidate who "lost." The "dumb" ones saw through the most intense media bias in modern history, and that makes the people who dismissed working class savvy very uncomfortable. There is enough general discomfort that there is now a movement in every city to oppose our dysfunctional system.

    What are the chances that we'd be here if Gov was led by someone whose stated sensibilities were to have the government keep people in their homes, and spawn growth with major stimulus spending, all before most saw the problem?

    I was on the ground and in Latino networks for most of the primary, and saw the most well informed voters by far of any in my 15 years of organizing. The people who primarily elevate intellectual intelligence not only ignore such working class savvy, they willfully ignore that the working class voters are often intellectually smartest. Do they have voices in the media? Does the Ivy League spit out working class writers?

    Here's a thought experiment: how many of the Obama v HRC supporters from real life could say what each stood for?

    I saw a paid organizer I know in real life on FB the other day telling a critic to go to Obama's website.

    Sorry, I'd like to learn from history and fix and improve ourselves. The false construction of intellectual intelligence doesn't cut it.


    Isn't almost three years of this enough (5.00 / 3) (#9)
    by Anne on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 12:58:45 PM EST
    to convince you that whatever hand Obama has the power to play, he is, in fact, playing, but that he's not playing for us?

    I mean, when you have people like Bill Daley in the WH, what else are people supposed to think about where Obama's interests lie?  Or is this another case, as in Suskind's book, where Obama is not being well-served by his advisors?

    From the NYT:

    The decision pitted Ms. (EPA Administrator Lisa) Jackson, a Princeton-trained chemical engineer and self-described "New Orleans girl," against the White House chief of staff, William M. Daley, a son and brother of bare-knuckled Chicago mayors who was brought in to help repair relations with business and Congress [...]

    Ms. Jackson knew that standard would cause political heartburn at the White House, so before submitting it she met with Mr. Daley at least three times in June to try to deal with any concerns. Mr. Daley, rightly sensing the uproar from business and local governments at the cost of meeting such a standard, sharply questioned the costs and burdens as well as the timing of the new rule but never explicitly asked her to hold off or pull back [...]

    Against all this, there was no one lobbying strongly within the White House for the tougher standard. Carol M. Browner, a former E.P.A. administrator who had served as the White House coordinator for energy and environmental policy, left earlier this year as Mr. Daley was taking over because she sensed those issues were taking a back seat to economic and political concerns.

    Mr. Daley abolished her job, leaving no one in the current White House who speaks as forcefully on environmental issues as she did.

    David Dayen:

    Daley ran interference on Jackson before even getting the decision to the President, and he knee-capped the White House of its environmental advisors so nobody the President trusted would have his ear after the fact. The coup de grace here comes in a meeting with the head of American Lung Association, a childhood friend of Daley's. By this time, Daley had already taken a meeting with business lobbyists, and he clearly just parroted them:

    Charles D. Connor, president of the American Lung Association and a childhood friend of Mr. Daley's, opened by discussing the adverse health impacts of ozone. He introduced Monica Kraft, a pulmonologist at Duke University and the president-elect of the American Thoracic Society.

    "I told them that we thought a 70 p.p.b. standard was appropriate for health reasons and laid out the statistics on deaths associated with progressively higher levels of ozone," Dr. Kraft said. She emphasized the damage smog does to the lungs of even healthy young children.

    Mr. Daley listened politely, then asked, "What are the health impacts of unemployment?" It was a question straight out of the industry playbook.


    ...Daley was brought in as a fixer. He fixes parking tickets. He listens to exactly what corporate America wants, and he goes out and gets it done. He's their man inside 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And he's still equipped to do that. As Broder writes, Daley "remains the administration's conduit for business interests."

    Obama's playing his hand just fine - it's just that the pot he wins isn't going to be headed in our direction.

    Anne, do you ever feel like (5.00 / 3) (#20)
    by Zorba on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 01:19:02 PM EST
    pounding your head against the wall?  Or that you're whistling into the wind?  Sister, you're not the only one who has been saying, for some time now, "No, his hands aren't tied, this is what Obama wants."  Alarm bells should have gone off for everyone when Obama expressed his great admiration for Ronald Reagan, and then when he chose people like Tim Geithner and Larry Summers for his economic team.  The idea that Obama is not being "well served" by his advisors is bogus- he chose those advisors deliberately.  Uneasy rests the butt that sits on the throne- the buck stops with President Obama.  

    My alarm bells went off (5.00 / 4) (#36)
    by the capstan on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 02:08:04 PM EST
    before that dratted election!

    It's true he chose the advisors, (5.00 / 0) (#37)
    by Anne on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 03:34:51 PM EST
    but sometimes I think that he chose them more for political reasons, than for policy reasons, which explains why - at least from what I read in Suskind's book - Obama never pushed back much when his team would move him in a direction different from the one he originally wanted to go.

    I came away from that book feeling/seeing glimmers of someone who could have done a lot of good, but who was too weak to stand up and actually work to get them done in the face of pushback from people he either wanted to emulate, or who moved in circles he wanted to be on the inside of.  If that makes sense.

    The example of Bill Daley is emblematic of that:  does it make any sense that if Obama was committed to environmental issues that he would be okay with Daley eliminating Carole Browner's position, or that he would have Daley mouthing industry talking points in opposition to medical, scientific and environmental experts?  

    Well, no, it doesn't make sense.  So was it just that he was never really committed to this issue, or that he would have followed through if only the industry opposition hadn't forced him - or Daley acting on his behalf - to weigh the politics of it and decide there was more upside in serving those industry interests?

    What good does it do for him to get affirmation from the common folk?  They are the people he doesn't want to be - he needs to have the cream-of-the-crop-1%-savvy-businessmen in his corner and behind his victories if he has any hope of proving to himself that he deserves to be among the elite.

    Sad to say, he is chasing something that, even if by every measure, he gets, won't satisfy him - but will, in the process, result in some very bad policy taking a huge toll on ordinary people.

    Now, back to beating my head against a wall...


    My prediction (5.00 / 1) (#40)
    by MO Blue on Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 07:50:28 AM EST
    The Obama/Bush tax cuts will be eliminated in the near future not because they will be allowed to expire which would raise taxes on corporations and the top brackets but because a new tax code will be adopted which will significantly lower the tax rates by 10 - 12% for corporations and the top brackets. These will be sold as reforms to the tax code and will be paid for by cutting domestic and safety net programs. IOW more money will be shifted from the poor and the middle class into the pockets of Obama and the other Masters of the Universe.

    Obama supports this move and has said so numerous times and in numerous ways. This is what Obama wants and this is what Obama will get. It is just a matter of time.


    I've given this a LOT of thought (5.00 / 2) (#33)
    by sj on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 01:49:12 PM EST
    Isn't almost three years of this enough (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by Anne on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 12:58:45 PM EST

    to convince you that whatever hand Obama has the power to play, he is, in fact, playing, but that he's not playing for us?

    While I don't presume to speak for BTD here are my conclusions:  BTD is very, very invested in the "pols are pols" theory of politics.  And there is so much value in that insight.  So what he's trying to do here is make "it" become the best political interest of the president.

    BUT... (and it's a big BUT) it's only part of the picture.  It makes no allowances for the human being/officeholder's ideology.  "Pols are pols" reduces human beings to emotionless automatons and gives no consideration to the human factor.  It assumes that the pol has no core and no strongly held beliefs about anything. It assumes that political pressure will always supercede ideology.

    That's just not the case.  

    In order for "pols are pols so advocate for your issue" to have an effect, the pol in question must be somewhat predisposed to look kindly on your issue.  

    If you want a pol to override his/her own ideology, a little (or even alot) of purely political pressure is NOT going to cut it.  The Magna Carta didn't come into being because a few Barons had the King John's ear.  He was forced to accept it.

    Now it's time for the [Robber] Barons to take their medicine.

    Anyway, that's my conclusion as to why BTD steadfastedly advocates for his viewpoint when it seems to me that he is just eloquently and logically pi$$ing into the wind.


    1992 and 2011 (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by AngryBlackGuy on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 01:02:26 PM EST
    Are very, very different worlds politically.

    I don't think pointing to Clinton's tax increase can even be compared to what Obama faces today.

    Point to an election (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 01:09:14 PM EST
    where a tax increase cost a candidate the election.

    Frankl,y I think it is clear thaat the political climate on taxes is a million time better NOW than it was in 1992. Just look at the polling.

    Your analysis on this issue especially is simply nonsensical imo.


    BTD, he might say the 92 (none / 0) (#16)
    by jeffinalabama on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 01:13:12 PM EST
    election, because of Bush 1's "no new taxes," but that one was about the economy, not the taxes.

    They are ALL about the economy (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 01:20:14 PM EST
    They are NEVER about "the deficit" or "taxes."

    This is the basic truth some seem incapable of understanding.


    Speaking for myself (none / 0) (#42)
    by AngryBlackGuy on Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 12:32:43 PM EST
    I am quite capable of understanding.


    50% of the populace is convinced that low taxes are the key to the economy.  If the economy is not doing well and people are looking for solutions, the fact that half the country believes.  That same percentage believes basically that deficits also fuel recession.

    This election, like all elections, is not necessarily decided on the economy as it stands, but who is in the best position to improve a bad economy or maintain a good one.  That's really what "it's the economy stupid" means.

    Not the necessarily the raw GDP or unemployment numbers.

    The fact that Obama is running ahead despite the fact that unemployment is so high is a clear indication that is is the delta/change that matters.  Not the absolute number.


    So, Bush I didn't lose his reelection (none / 0) (#17)
    by oculus on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 01:13:14 PM EST
    campaign due to breaking his promise of no new taxes?  

    More a matter of (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by jeffinalabama on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 01:14:07 PM EST
    a stinking economy and a third party.

    Ah, another "given" busted. Thanks. (none / 0) (#19)
    by oculus on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 01:15:14 PM EST
    A basic truth I now understand! (none / 0) (#24)
    by oculus on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 01:21:46 PM EST
    Clinton broke his promise (none / 0) (#23)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 01:21:21 PM EST
    to give a middle class tax cut.

    It's ALWAYS the economy and jobs.


    I would point to 2010 Mid-Terms (none / 0) (#44)
    by AngryBlackGuy on Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 01:00:34 PM EST
    And say that the fear of tax increases, the deficit and their effect on the economy cost a whole lot of people their elections.

    I think "economy" is more complex a concept.  It is entirely possible that the economy will stink and Obama will get elected.  How does that possibility fit into your theory?

    That possibility fits easily into mine.


    Here's my analogy (5.00 / 2) (#12)
    by jeffinalabama on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 01:04:43 PM EST
    The president is the croupier at the roulette wheel.  But the house is dirty, and he has buttons to change where the ball lands... he can make it hit red, black or green when he wants.

    Everyone suspects it's a dirty table, but it's the only game in town.

    The money and muscle behind the gambling house only care about their rake. Thus, Obama only cares about their rake, because that's where his paycheck comes from.

    So he's going to work for the owners, and tell the folks playing the crooked game, "Fork you, pay me or leave."  He's been saying that through his minions, like Rahm and dirty hippies, etc.

    He's a lap dog, a Pomeranian who wants to be called a pit bull from the comfort of big daddy's protection. But people are wise to this grift.

     Obama doesn't play the grift nearly as well as W Bush did. He's a minnow in a school of piranhas. That's why the republican insane clown posse has a chance in 2012... because Obama caters to the rich, then gets angry and petulant when the rest of us see him putting the button on the wheel and point it out to him that we see it.

     He keeps doing it, but he's mad that we see it, like the Wizard of Oz saying "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain."

    Jeff, I'm not entirely sure (5.00 / 3) (#25)
    by Zorba on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 01:27:19 PM EST
    that I would call Obama a "lap dog."  He's more a very skilled, two-faced manipulator.  He wanted his ostensible base to think that he was for "hope" and "change" and that he was on their side.  I think that Obama is, was, and always will be on Obama's side.  The question is, did Wall Street and the large corporate interests use him?  Or......was he using them, at the same time that he was using those of us who believed in progressive values?

    According to his handlers, they decide (5.00 / 1) (#27)
    by oculus on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 01:33:18 PM EST
    what Obama should say and he decides how to say it.  

    Mmmm hmmm. (5.00 / 4) (#30)
    by Zorba on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 01:45:05 PM EST
    That's what they say.  How do they know that he's not manipulating them as much as they are manipulating him?  I've watched this guy's career from his days as an Illinois state senator, before he was on the national radar.  Obama is for Obama.  He's not the "progressive messiah" that many Democrats would have you believe, nor is he any kind of easily-manipulated politician.  I think he's far more ruthless and far more self-centered and intelligent than they give him credit for.  He wanted power, and he came from nowhere and got it.

    Zorba, (5.00 / 1) (#29)
    by jeffinalabama on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 01:42:45 PM EST
    I think he's a lackey or lickspittle to the wealthy and he has been all along. I gave him a chance during his first year, when he had the power of a)the 100 days, and b) a Democratic congress.

    but I also listened to him and read what he said. That's what led me to distrust him and his motives from before he was elected.

    Oh well... i've never seen compromise itself as an end game.  Compromise between two poor positions reminds me of eating at the same restaurant, complaining first that the food is terrible, then complaining that the portions are too small.


    Jeff, see my answer (5.00 / 1) (#31)
    by Zorba on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 01:47:38 PM EST
    #30 to Oculus.  I don't think that he's a lackey to the wealthy- I think he's been using everyone to get power and wealth of his own.  With Obama, there's no "there" there, except for what can further his own ambitions.

    My take is that he cozied up to the (5.00 / 2) (#34)
    by jeffinalabama on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 01:53:42 PM EST
    wealthy to get wealth, and has supported their agenda to keep his place at the kiddy table. Power? He's in the most powerful position on earth, unless one reads conspiracy theories.

    Well, maybe he Does hold the Grand Master of the Knights Templar position :-P

    I think he cozied up to the ones who could give him power... We're probably close on what we think, Zorba. I think he caters to the rich because they made him an honorary member. Or I should say he willingly does, there's no wide-eyed naivete about it.

    And who could have guessed at his authoritarian streak? I dunno... his wife having to ask him about a job, some other statements i don't remember too well, and the 'sweety,' statement that still irritates me.

    Did he never watch the beginning of 'Reservoir Dogs?'


    Yes. (none / 0) (#38)
    by Zorba on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 06:09:32 PM EST
    I would largely have to agree, jeff.

    Also, I don't think (5.00 / 2) (#32)
    by jeffinalabama on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 01:48:30 PM EST
    it's manipulation when you join in and do it willingly, and then go farther toward what the big guys want than they would go themselves.

    Please let's not spend all day telling (5.00 / 4) (#21)
    by oculus on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 01:20:01 PM EST
    BTD what the Pres. is or isn't doing with his "hand."  

    This is one issue where the President has the dominant hand. He should play it.

    Note the word "should."  

    There are days (none / 0) (#1)
    by Edger on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 11:39:50 AM EST
    when I kind of wish you had rec buttons on posts here...

    He (none / 0) (#4)
    by Ga6thDem on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 12:17:05 PM EST
    no longer has a "dominant hand". He folded that hand last December.

    He still has the power (none / 0) (#45)
    by AngryBlackGuy on Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 01:02:24 PM EST
    He can do nothing and raise taxes by trillions in 2012.

    He never gave that power up.  Whether he would use it is a fair question, but he is in the driver's seat.


    Nope (none / 0) (#46)
    by Ga6thDem on Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 01:18:42 PM EST
    They don't expire until after the '12 elections. Right? So he may not have a hand to play there.

    They expire on his watch (none / 0) (#47)
    by AngryBlackGuy on Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 01:39:45 PM EST
    either as a lame duck or as the POYUS for the next 4 years. He will have the power to sign nothing and make it happen.

    Again (none / 0) (#49)
    by Ga6thDem on Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 01:53:07 PM EST
    he had that exact same power before and did use the hand that he was dealt. He just doesn't have any credibility. You're probably too young to remember that 70's phrase the "credibility gap" but it should come back with Obama in office.

    I admitted (none / 0) (#50)
    by AngryBlackGuy on Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 02:45:54 PM EST
    That whether he will use his power was a different issue than whether he gave up the power in December.

    Who knows what he will do, but he still has the ability to make Grover Norquist kiss his butt and massively raise taxes by himself.


    This President doesn't do `dominant'. n/t (none / 0) (#28)
    by nycstray on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 01:38:55 PM EST

    I'm still stuck at... (none / 0) (#51)
    by sj on Sat Nov 19, 2011 at 12:43:34 AM EST
    ... Drum calling himself a liberal.