Encircled by irate liberals, the president has done it now -- confirmed his domestic legacy by re-entrenching into the permanent status quo the "Bush-Obama" tax cuts. If passed, no one in two years, especially the tax-hating House majority, will touch this sacred cow. Though heavily telegraphed, this vaunted sabotage shocked those still clinging to Obama dreams of progressive change, audacity, or hope.
Curiously, and frankly, this pact to sustain low taxes on the rich, however noxious, is a second-order symbolic Armageddon moment. Like the old joke, his brother was worse. Certainly, a $70 billion yearly subsidy to the super-rich is offensive, dastardly, even shameless. But compared to lasting entrenchment of Bushthink and predatory Bush policies, this capitulation hardly informs the Obama Era. You know the drill: endless wars, surges and military spending, unrelenting rights violations, no job growth, plus gross negligence on environmental, climate, financial and regulatory crimes. Education, science, and research are "discretionary," not life-destroying tanks, guns and bombs.
Fair or not, taxes are like debt and money, loaded with emotional charges. But they don't qualify as the transcendent, cause celebre for (finally) opposing our amateur, of late duplicitous president, whose dubious learning curve is showing. Yes, who pays for government matters -- taxation is over time the ultimate family wealth determinant -- but the essence of government, for good and ill, is what it does, not which forgotten groups paid for it. Imagine in 50 years justifying why we spent so obscenely on killing machines -- or what we gained from chronic saber-rattling, invasions, mass, often indiscriminate violence, especially against "insurgents" defying our invading, killing, maiming.
Tax "Compromises" the Right Loves
I argue taxation alone insufficiently depicts this president and cronies as irresponsible, even fiendish. In electoral terms, the GOP owns the lever against "raising taxes." Until Democrats break the imaginary linkage between lower taxes and more jobs, any framework that tags "tax-and-spend liberals" serves the right. Until Democrats resell the idea that good government is a must-have, not a nice-to-have, expect more GOP dumps on government, thus routinely on taxes -- who wants good money wasted after bad?
No doubt, taxation (a.k.a. revenue by compulsion) is the distinguishing kernel defining government. But compulsion is justified only when government serves the general good, differing from charity by having directed social and economic goals. Remove that virtue, strip the funding, and conservatives can then let bleeding-heart liberals fight over crumbs left for the needy, ailing, or unemployed.
Best Republicrat since Clinton
Of course, by freezing federal pay while scouring for "waste," the president again willfully ignores his sole mandate to make systemic changes. He wasn't elected because of his dark skin or light resume, not even his smile, but because he promised to change the system, or at least fight for change as he fought Hilary and McCain. Yet, despite three elections that cry out, "the system stinks," we're not even flattered by Obama gestures anymore. How does Barack "Get Along' Obama miss the same message repeated three times? Instead, his own base is pummeled by his audacity of pique, refusing to buy into his cosmetic, corporate-friendly buffing.
Frankly, I am beginning to worry this president, with only two years to go, will run out of ways to mimic Republican policy, clearly his narrative de jour. He's certainly putting forth the weirdest Democratic re-election campaign ever -- punish your base, then attack for being upset at White House non-performance. Is this his lasting lesson from community organizing? Curiouser and curiouser. The unsurprising result: this Republicrat is doing his damnest to make 2012 competitive, prepping to snatch defeat from a predictable victory not so long ago.
Mind-snatchers from the Right
Not only that: Obama now pours forth the kind of delusional thinking reserved for rightwing nutcases. This week he bragged his tax deal, the result of not persuading unshakable rightwing leaders otherwise (say what?), was no weak compromise but a home run for the American people, a new notch in his winning playbook. "I'll take John Boehner at his word," he said, incredibly. Obama actually claimed he was again fulfilling major campaign promises, as he flipped over flop. He also rewrote history, concocting Social Security originally only "affected widows and orphans," a definitive falsehood.
Only weeks ago this nervy lame-duck railed against unaffordable, ineffective tax giveaways to the rich. Now "millions" of new jobs will trickle-down by indirection from this junior "stimulus." No matter, if historians stick to judging his presidency by how fluidly he provided bipartisan continuity, he'll outshine W. in any "worst modern president" face-off. And more good news: every new Obama capitulation (not the last, certainly) disproves what many feared as the worst case: gridlock.
Actually, on extending tax breaks for the obscenely rich, the left would embrace a little more gridlock. Maybe, just maybe, the Senate filibuster will finally serve the people, not some deviant majority of one. But, all in all, trust this president will stay the course and find new ways to fulfill the audacity of surrender, indeed the audacity of failure and the glory of being the earliest lame-duckling in history.
Do Stars Still Favor Obama?
Clearly our best Republicrat since Clinton, Obama will embrace this new, triangulated Democratic Party goal -- award the rich their deep tax discount -- to win a second term. But if this faux, inefficient stimulus doesn't alleviate joblessness, as Paul Krugman and others fear, Obama will have mightily offended his base while shooting himself in the foot. Must be some political wizardry here, but it escapes me.
The stars could still favor Obama. No new disaster occurs, and no war breaks out -- unless some miscreant blatantly attacks us, the best re-election ploy. The economy improves a bit more than abysmal tackiness of Republican foes -- same as '08 less one addled war hero plus one disgraced cupie doll. Just wait until Sarah Palin starts to stormtrooper her way to top her ticket. Liberals and moderates will rush, albeit reluctantly, to the silver-tongued devil they know vs. the uneducated, erratic weirdo they don't, despite two more likely years enriching herself with political theatre. Bank on Palin portrayed as chain-saw scary, far more dangerous than our Compromiser-in-Chief. Hey, it's a plan, in White House-think and look how well they've done.