Two new reports suggest that the President and Congressional Democrats are about to betray everything Democrats once stood for. Under pressure from Barack Obama, Democrats on the "Super Committee" have sketched out an appalling "compromise" proposal that would almost certainly doom both their 2012 electoral chances and his own.
They'd have it coming. Their draft plan literally takes crutches away from poor people to protect tax breaks for the wealthy.
Unfortunately, middle class and impoverished Americans would suffer much more than they would. Career politicians can always look forward to comfortable sinecures from the wealthy interests who will benefit from their proposal. But the rest of us would once again be punished for the excesses of the rich, then left to the untender mercies of our new Republican leaders.
That, and not the fate of a President or a party, would be the real tragedy.
The President's actively pressuring Super Committee members from both parties to come up with a budget-slashing deal, according to a report in today's Washington Post. In addition, Obama is also urging them not to cancel the automatic $1.2 trillion in cuts that would be triggered under current law if they fail to make an agreement.
Another story, from the Huffington Post's Sam Stein, gave details on the Democrats' latest proposed "compromise." These two stories paint the picture of a President and a party who are willing to keep taxes low for the wealthy, and who would pay for it by proposing cuts that punish seniors, doctors and the poor.
Why? So they can say they "successfully governed" with extremist Republicans? To please international markets that, in reality, couldn't care less? So the President can campaign as "above left and right," as if differences in principle are a bad thing? Because they've been spiritually suffocated by the cultural norms of Washington's insular culture?
There are more questions than answers. Here's one more: With Democrats like this, who needs Republicans?
Low rates for the wealthy
Stein reports that the Democratic proposal would keep tax rates for the wealthiest Americans at the historically low Bush-cut rate of 35 percent to please the GOP. (That rate was 91 percent under Eisenhower, 50 percent at the start of Reagan's term, and 39 percent under Clinton.) The very wealthiest among us would continue to savor these unusually low tax rates to sweeten the fruits of ever-increasing wealth inequity.
The Dems would also accept the principle of "corporate tax reform to enhance competitiveness," which sounds a lot like a bid for lower tax rates for corporations. That would be offset by reductions in overly indulgent tax breaks, such as those that apply to corporate jets. But corporations would still retain expensive accountants and even more expensive lobbyists. I'll bet you a big chunk of your future Medicare benefits how that would turn out.
Oh, wait. These Democrats are already placing that bet. We'll get to that shortly.
Those are the breaks
The party's internal discussion document includes "triggers" that would take effect if Congress can't cut these deductions itself. One of those triggers is described as "a Feldstein-type limitation on itemized deductions for higher income taxpayers." They're referring to Martin S. Feldstein, the former Reagan advisor who wants to eliminate tax breaks for solar panels or electric cars. More significantly, Feldstein also wants to cap tax deductions at 2 percent of income -- for everyone.
Feldstein's op-ed in the New York Times explained that "Taxpayers with incomes of $25,000 to $50,000 would pay about $1,000 more in taxes; those with incomes of more than $500,000 might pay $40,000 more." In other words, the poor must pay part of the bill for the excesses of the rich.