Liberals like the New York Times’ Paul Krugman wanted President Obama to call the Republican’s bluff on tax breaks for the rich. It apparently didn’t matter to Krugman that following his advice would mean everybody’s tax breaks being cancelled for New Years and the government being polarized to the breaking point – with still no possibility of the Senate terminating the Bush tax cuts.
Into that wilderness I would not go. No amount of oratory will end those tax breaks soon. Obama was right to note that FDR’s social security plan began by covering only widows and orphans, and grew from there. He was right that the United State began with a compromise that prevented him from entering the White House through the front door. At a tactical disadvantage, he salvaged tax breaks for college tuition and small businesses while ensuring that the next debate over tax breaks for the rich will take place during the 2012 presidential election.
What the Democrats could do now is immediately slow down on approving the Obama-GOP tax deal until Republican intentions are fully revealed on the US-Russia nuclear arms treaty, the don’t ask-don’t tell policy, and the DREAM Act, all still pending in the lame-duck session.
If tax breaks for the rich are the “Holy Grail” for the Republican Party, as President Obama noted, any remaining Democratic leverage will be gone once the House votes for the tax package. Holding off a few more days could further expose the Republicans as an absolutist party of NO.
In the meantime, no one seems to be paying attention to the December White House “review” promised on Afghanistan. The yearly cost of the Afghan War is between $113 billion [White House numbers] and $192 billion [Stiglitz-Bilmes numbers]. The yearly budget cost of extending tax breaks to the rich is $70 billion, half the cost of the Afghan War.
Last week, 61 House members issued a letter opposing any delay or deceleration in redeployment from Afghanistan. There has been no response from either the White House or the press.