Sunday, December 12, 2010

Morphing on The Hill

Loads of people are in high-gear whine mode about the deal cut in Washington by the President with the Republicans last week. One of the lesser ad hominems being thrown at the President at the moment is the accusation that he's morphed into a Republican at last.

I beg to differ.

It's the fools on the Hill in the Democratic Party who are showing their true colours.

Pardon me, but I thought the deficit was one of the main GOP Rightwing talking points. You know, the spreading of the fear meme that if we don't get the deficit down and pronto, we're doomed to be roasted on a blazing spit in eternal hell or end up in international debtors' prison or something along those lines. Until last week, I thought the Democratic response to the GOP deficit war cry was, "Do not address the deficit at the expense of jobs."

In fact, many Democrats, both on the Hill and off it, who were critical of the President, often said in hindsight, that perhaps the first two years of his Presidency should have been devoted to job creation, instead of healthcare reform; in fact, that's one of the nicer criticisms two of the more bitchier self-proclaimed professional political pundits have levelled.

But that's all water under the bridge. The President effected a compromise with the recalcitrant Republican party to allow the Bush era tax cuts for the wealthiest citizens to be extended temporarily for the next two years, in exchange for the tax cuts to be extended permanently on people earning less than $200,000 per annum ($250K for couples), a 13-month extension of Unemployment Insurance, a year's moratorium on payroll taxes and several other bits of legislation beneficial to the working class, the middle class, the working poor and their children (especially if those children wish to attend college or university).

Now, all of a sudden, it's a matter of the highest dudgeon that the exchange concerned the two-year extension of tax cuts for the wealthiest citizens. That and only that. That the revolt was led on the Hill by various and sundry elected officials in reasonably safe seats, and included members of Congress who rank amongst the wealthiest on the Hill - four of the five richest elected officials in Congress are Democrats - was truly astounding.

Not that they shouldn't want or expect to pay more taxes. That's fully in line with the Democrats' altruistic principles; but also, as career politicians, many of whom have been around the political block more than enough times, they should know that, in the free world, politics consists of compromise and compromise isn't pretty and doesn't make people happy. Even that great arm-twister, Lyndon Johnson, recognised that. So did FDR, who effectively compromised away any inclusion of African Americans in New Deal benefits in order to keep the Southern Democratic Senators sweet.

I cut my teeth in a Democratic cradle on the mantra that Democrats looked after the poor, the working poor, the working people, that Republicans helped only the rich and big business.

I guess nobody looks after those people now, except, maybe the President; and if Congress keeps throwing an idealogical hissy fit, that'll pretty much mean no one will.

But then, why should we Democrats worry about a bunch of toothless, uneducated rubes who sit agog in front of Fox News and always vote Republican anyway?

A couple of points amidst all this adolescent angst taking place at the moment:

The President told the Senate Majority Leader and the Speaker of the House that he wanted the tax cut situation addressed on the Hill when Congress returned from its summer hiatus in September. He wanted the tax cuts to feature in the midterm campaigns. If they'd passed for the middle classes, with the wealthiests' expiring, then that was a positive point to feature in any Congressional campaign; if they'd been defeated by Republican intransigence, then there was all the evidence a Democrat needed that the GOP cared only for the rich and their corporate masters.
Both Reid and Pelosi refused to consider this, informing the President that they would be addressing the tax cuts after the midterms, as there were too many who were up for re-election whose districts contained quite a few people above the arbitrary $250 point. Sticky subject. In fact, Russ Feingold personally lobbied to President not to press this issue until after the mid-terms. Well, Feingold lost his seat, and so did 65 Democrats in the House. Had this issue been addressed when the President originally asked, who knows what this might have wrought?

With that in mind, had more people actually got up off their asses on November 2 and moseyed along down to the polls, there may never have been need of such an odious compromise.
And, finally, thinking ahead to 2012, if the President should choose to try for re-election (and I wouldn't blame him if he didn't), the fact that the Republicans were all for using the moot point of reducing the deficit at all costs, to be more important than addressing the unemployment issue, would lend itself to being a very strong campaign point ... only now, the Democrats have boarded the deficit bus to ride along the road to 2012 with the Republicans, it seems.

And with the highest hypocrisy.

Suddenly, the tax cuts for the wealthiest, which she supported in 2001, have become distasteful to Senator Mary "Louisiana Purchase" Landrieu, who had to be bought like a high-class Big Easy hooker in order to sign onto any healthcare reform.

The longer this bus ride continues, the more ammunition the GOP have to throw back in any Democratic candidate's face in 2012, included that venerable saint, Howard Dean, who sounded off on this same note today.

And by effectively validating the deficit argument as the single most important issue that must be addressed in Congress, with rejecting this bill outright as contributing to that deficit, doesn't this sorta kinda (forgive the Palinese) indirectly validate Simpson-Bowles?

The political bus these recalcitrant Democrats are about to board at their own risk doesn't stop until the deficit's been addressed, and, like all means of transport, it doesn't do flip-flops, no matter how regrettably short the voting public's memory is. Any moving vehicle which flip-flops, as we all know results in its occupants suffering inevitable fatalities.

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