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Headlined to None 12/9/10

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The debate is just heating up about the so-called "compromise deal" worked out between President Barack Obama and Republicans on extending the Bush Era tax cuts for two years. The deal --" if that is what is can be called --" has sparked shrill acrimony on the Left as liberals and progressives alike view this as one more "sell out" by President Obama who seems unable to draw a line in the sand against a determined, reactionary Right-wing Republican Caucus.

On the Right big business, even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that launched a series of negative attacks against Democrats during the mid-term elections, is pleased. As are people raking in $5 million. The Grand Compromise will also extend unemployment compensation for 13 months for poor, out-of-work Americans, the hapless victims of a recession predicated on corporate greed and avarice that has uncorked a long-festering, furious reaction from deeply frustrated labor and congressional progressives who hitherto had been reluctant to publicly feud with the president.

And while President Obama waxed eloquently in true Clintonian fashion as the defender of the poor, even in the best of economic times job disparities between Blacks, minorities and whites have always been a major headache in America. Oftentimes the nation's leaders --" both from the Republican and Democratic Parties --" have bolstered the rich and powerful, defended their financial interests at the expense of an expendable Black and minority population. So that in acutely difficult economic times, as now, when the gulf between rich and poor has become a great yawning abyss, it is unconscionable and obscene to even consider giving tax cuts and protections to the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans.

While President Obama's arguments as to why he was forced to compromise with Republicans certainly sound credible on the surface the end result is that no matter his good intentions this deal --" should it pass as is --" will eviscerate and obliterate any perception of fairness in America's economic policy. And worse yet, this deal or compromise or whatever it is called by the spin doctors of both political parties, will rend asunder the already fragile social fabric of the country. It will further extend the gap between rich and poor, haves and have nots. It will aggravate further the economic disparities between Blacks and Latinos and whites.

Against the backdrop of this "compromise deal" is the reality that in November 15.1 million Americans were unemployed. But that figure alone only tells part of the story. Among whites the unemployment rate is 8.9 percent --" something that has both Republicans and Democrats worried that if this statistic continues or grows the political backlash will be very punitive in 2012. Lost in the shuffle of a national 9 or 10 percent unemployment is the staggering 16 percent for Blacks and a 13.2 percent for Latinos.

With these dismal statistics the White House and Republicans in the Congress reached an agreement that will allow an extension of the controversial Bush-era tax cuts for everyone. President Barack Obama accurately said it was the best arrangement he could make with Republican leaders, who stood united to do nothing until Congress pushed through legislation that extended the Bush-era tax cuts for all Americans that offers major benefits to America's super rich.

This immediately created a wave of angry rhetoric from the Left in Congress that folded into one package a condemnation of the spurious deal coupled with long-simmering doubts about President Barack Obama's timid leadership. Many pointed out that he might have boxed himself in by prematurely capitulating to Republican threats in the wake of the November 2 mid-term elections and gun-shy after the Democratic Party rout. The liberal left has pointed to the president's self-defeating shift in focus from job creation to deficit reduction, a favorite Republican agenda item, and his haste in promoting a new, NAFTA-style trade deal with South Korea that has created concerns about outsourcing American jobs during a recessionary time.

"Make no mistake, allowing taxes to go up on all Americans would have raised taxes by $3,000 for a typical American family and that could cost our economy well over a million jobs," President Obama said.

Examining the Obama-GOP deal the unmistakable conclusion is that the complex tax framework is projected to keep or create 2.2 million new jobs over the two years of the tax cut extension.

The deal also includes additional things as expanded refundable tax credits that promise help for 12 million poor families, nearly half of them minorities. However, the bad news in the deal is that there will be 500,000 fewer jobs maintained or created because the president had to compromise on tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of American taxpayers. Those uncreated 500,000 jobs would have happened through a larger payroll tax break for all Americans. For unemployed Americans, especially Black and Latino Americans, this means fewer job opportunities.

So all of this has poisoned the atmosphere to the extent that within the president's own party there is considerable consternation and dissent, if not open rebellion and rejection of the deal. Republicans, especially those with large working class constituencies, are also signaling that the deal is too toxic to handle. President Obama has dispatched Vice President Joe Biden and his top political operatives to sway errant Democrats and convince them that he's going to start fighting next year and that he's played the best political hand that he was dealt with in the circumstances.

Lost in this argument and counter-argument, spin and counter-spin, wheeling, dealing, arm-twisting, turning and compromise is the fact that poor Black and Latino Americans have been basically overlooked and left out of the debate. Republicans are adamant that tax cuts for the rich must be part of any deal no matter such a move will jack up the national deficit by another $1 trillion --" nearly $800 billion by 2012. Obfuscated in the debate of the 9 or 10 percent national unemployment statistic is the silence of political leaders from both parties about the 2.9 million Black unemployed and the 3 million Latinos. For them it is meaningless to have a tax credit when you do not have job.

And too, President Barack Obama may think that he's put a Band-Aid on the Bush Era Tax cuts cancer while he searches for a permanent cure but all he got in the end was 13 months of extended unemployment benefits, a temporary payroll tax reduction for workers in exchange for a two-year extension of the Bush tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. This will not change Republican attitudes towards him and their ultimate aim to make him a one-term president. He can expect the GOP and the Tea Party zealots to dig in in 2011 and ratchet up the "Obama failure" rhetoric as they obstruct and block everything that he tries to accomplish. The Republicans got the best of the deal. For one thing they walked away with a major concession: an exemption of fortunes under $5 million from any inheritance taxes.

The criticisms at President Obama's negotiating strategy have also come under fire from the Left in his party. They feel that he should have drawn a line in the sand and challenged Republicans since the vast majority of Americans (over 80%) do not favor extending the Bush Tax cuts for the rich. Republicans had adopted a controversial  position of very visibly going all-out for the very richest Americans with no concern for the $1 trillion cost of extending the Bush tax cuts ($700 billion plus $300 billion in interest) for another 10 years.

At the same time that they were batting for their rich friends they were threatening to kill unemployment benefits for poor Americans and jettisoned a measly $250 living wage adjustment for senior citizens who voted for them in the mid-term elections in the sixty-five percentile. This is a national outrage, illustrating the inherent and structural inequality built into the U.S. economy. And it comes at a long-term cost to the quality of civic participation in our national life. Political leaders have demonstrated that they just don't care about the unfairness and callous disregard that they exhibit towards the poorest and neediest Americans when they tailor and tinker with tax cuts that benefit only rich people.

Liberals and progressives are understandably upset with President Obama because they feel that he could have taken the fight to the Republicans by exposing their preoccupation and focus on the super rich while conspicuous in their indifference to poor, jobless families. And the deal is fraught with serious political minefields that can explode in the president's face during his re-election year.   The two-year extension of the tax cuts for the richest 2% will mean that Democrats--already badly battered by the catastrophic loss of at least 63 House and six Senate seats--will be facing the very same choices and issues on the super-rich tax-cut extension two years from now.

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MICHAEL D. ROBERTS is a top Political Strategist and Business, Management and Communications Specialist in New York City's Black community. He is an experienced writer whose specialty is socio-political and economic analysis and local (more...)
 
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