Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 7, 2010

MAKING THE BEST OF A BAD SITUATION.... At the surface, the circumstances surrounding the deal on tax policy between congressional Republicans and the White House tilt in the GOP's favor. After all, the agreement gives Republicans their top goal (at least temporarily), while President Obama's sound, popular tax plan has been scuttled.

To that extent, it's an unsettling situation -- Senate Republicans took the political process hostage, and they're receiving their ransom.

But one of the recent knocks on President Obama is his habit of negotiating poorly, failing to get much in return for his concessions. That's not the case in the tax deal at all. On the contrary, the resulting agreement really isn't that bad. I'm comfortable putting this in the "better than expected" category.

Who gets what? For Republicans, that's easy: a two-year extension on all Bush-era tax rates, regardless of income. Making matters slightly worse, the White House also agreed to include a deal on the estate tax, raising the exemption to $5 million per person and a 35% maximum rate, and a two-year extension on a capital gains top rate of 15%.

But then there's the flip-side. The president secured a 13-month extension of aid for the long-term unemployed, reportedly his top priority. The deal also includes a reduction in the Social Security payroll tax, which will give workers a boost in their paychecks; an expanded earned-income tax credit; the continuation of a college-tuition tax credit; and new opportunities for businesses to write off the cost of some equipment purchases.

Obama was able to secure help for the middle class and the unemployed; Republicans were able to keep breaks for the wealthy. In other words, both sides got to fight for their natural constituencies.

But taking a step back, when considering what all was accomplished here, the deal starts to look less like an agreement on tax rates, and more like something else. As David Leonhardt put it, "This deal looks an awful lot like a second stimulus."

The apparent deal over the Bush tax cuts highlights why the Democrats probably had to accept the extension of all the Bush tax cuts. No politician is likely to use this word -- at least no Democratic politician -- but the deal amounts to a second stimulus bill. [...]

Subtract the $400 billion cost of the Bush tax cuts. Subtract another $140 billion or so, which is the cost of extending the Alternative Minimum Tax patch (and almost certainly would have happened regardless). You're then left with more than $300 billion in net stimulus over two years. And while that sum will not be enough to fix the economy all by itself, it is serious money. The original stimulus bill cost about $800 billion, and most of the money will have been spent in the first two years after its passage.

None of this is meant to wave away the failure by Mr. Obama and other Democratic leaders to take action on the Bush tax cuts earlier. The Democrats did not need to be in this position. But the outcome is not all bad, especially for the short-term sake of the economy.

I'm reluctant to go too far down this road -- a real stimulus would include a hearty dose of additional infrastructure spending, for example. What's more, some of these provisions may be stimulative, but there are easier, more efficient ways of using these funds to improve the economy.

But for all the recent talk about deficits, debts, and austerity, this agreement effectively ignores all of those concerns, and finances the entire deal by adding to the deficit -- which I think is quite wise under the circumstances.

All things being equal, I suspected the deal to be worse. Call that the soft bigotry of low expectations if you will, but I'm actually feeling slightly relieved.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (60)

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one of the recent knocks on President Obama is his habit of negotiating poorly, failing to get much in return for his concessions

Recent? That criticism has been in play since Obama proposed a meet-you-halfway (and, ultimately, inadequate) stimulus package, made up of too many tax cuts into the bargain. And since his adopting a Republican proposal for health care reform.

It's good that Obama appears to have received concessions from the Republicans -- though whether they'll honor their side of the bargain remains to be seen -- but he still very much appears to be dancing to the Republicans' tune.

One good point as far as Obama's reputation among the Villagers, I suppose, is that the "even-the-liberal" NPR was positively giddy in predicting that liberals would be disappointed with the deal.

Posted by: Gregory on December 7, 2010 at 8:06 AM | PERMALINK

I want Obama as my negotiator; the next time that I want to negotiate an unconditional surrender!

More tax cuts. More tax cuts. More income redistribution upward to the millionares and billionares.

Less government revenue. More and bigger deficits. More and bigger 'justifications' for the wealthy to get their corporately owned president and corporately owned dumbocraps and rethugnicans to cut social security, medicare, medicaid, veterans benefits, and other programs that assist the middle class and working poor.

More and more evidence that The Obomination is really a closet rethug working to increase the income and wealth disparity in this country and to continue to shrink the middle class.

Posted by: AngryOldVet on December 7, 2010 at 8:16 AM | PERMALINK

I'm tired of seeing the middle class being shafted - again - to placate the Money Party. Preemptive capitulation, an unwillingness to fight (which at this point in the game can only be described as deliberate), and buttressing the appearance of ineptness and cowardice; we're left with "well, it's not as bad as I thought" and "it could have been worse."

Perhaps. But what is undoubtedly true is it could have been a hell of a lot better.

I think that many people were so, so frustrated with the Bush years, the railroading of conservative ideology, and the dilution of the Rule of Law. I think people thought that that was over, that Obama and the House and the Senate meant that we could finally begin to crawl out of this mess. Yet here we are, with some victories no doubt, but with a general reality that conservatives still get what they want, that things really aren't changing, that things are getting worse.

Posted by: terraformer on December 7, 2010 at 8:17 AM | PERMALINK

Just another cave. Why am I constantly dissapointed with the Democrats. Will we ever have a leader that actually fights for something. I just can't believe it. I always feel outflanked, outdemagogued, outmaneuvered and outsold. Will we ever get someone in office who shows some damn backbone?

Posted by: just some guy on December 7, 2010 at 8:26 AM | PERMALINK

It's hard for Obama to negotiate from a position of strength when one's own party is fractious and/or won't collectively act when it WAS (note the tense) more politically propitious to do so--in this specific instance, back before the November election. As Steve B. was saying then, it's a mystery to me why the Democrats wouldn't vote on this then (or, for that matter, why they ran away from the ACA, the stimulus, etc.). Now, post-election, the Republicans have their "the people have spoken" talking point, thanks to the Dems' political cowardice.

None of this is to absolve Obama. It's pretty clear to me, though, that his own party's inaction and fear did much to tie his hands.

Better panderers to the middle class, please!

Posted by: John B. on December 7, 2010 at 8:28 AM | PERMALINK

Obama, the Great Capitulator, didn't want to leave Wall Street with that "uncertainty" whether to get their record bonuses at the beginning of next year or now to beat the tax law changes.

Posted by: tko on December 7, 2010 at 8:30 AM | PERMALINK

This deal complicates things if the D's in Congress decide to oppose it. It would have been much easier for the general public (as opposed to us political junkies) to understand if the Administration and Congressional Democrats stopped working on a compromise after Republicans opposed the middle class tax cut on Saturday. The onus and the responsibility for everyone's taxes going up would, IMO, clearly be theirs. Now, with this negotiation, Democrats have incurred more responsibility for the result if progressive Democrats in Congress shoot it down.

Posted by: jim on December 7, 2010 at 8:30 AM | PERMALINK

The rich take the cake, the poor get the crumbs.
-Same as it ever was, same as it ever was. . .

Posted by: DAY on December 7, 2010 at 8:32 AM | PERMALINK


Anybody but Obama in 2012.

Posted by: SW on December 7, 2010 at 8:39 AM | PERMALINK

Give it up Steve-this is a shit sandwich too far-

Posted by: Allan Snyder on December 7, 2010 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

Sadly, we await the thread of Mr Benen on the Wednesday following the first Tuesday in November, 2012, which will read "Well, Obama's loss was "better than expected".

Yes, "Hope and Sellout" is the new bumper sticker.

Posted by: berttheclock on December 7, 2010 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

I don't buy your reasoning. This deal enshrines bad policies and makes Democrats equally responsible for its failures. Worse, it moves us farther down the road to a government funding crisis that the R's can use to hack away at all progressive social programs. This compromise sells out Democratic principles for a pittance of short-term benefits. No way will the unemployment benefits get the subsequent round of extension, and no way will Democrats will be able to do anything other than lose even worse when this comes up in an election year that will have considerable structural advantages for the Republicans?

Posted by: N.Wells on December 7, 2010 at 8:42 AM | PERMALINK

Part of me reacted to the Republicans by saying "just let all the damn tax cuts go away". However I also heard a lot of Economists (ok, not Paul Krugman but just because you have a Nobel prize doesn't make you right about everything) warn of a big dip in the fragile recovery if all tax cuts went away next year. I don't think Obama had a choice and I think if I was long term unemployed I'd be very relieved today. For those disappointed with Obama not fighting for Liberal principles again miss the main thing about Obama...he's not, and never has been, an idealogue. He's a Pragmatist and I think he also realizes that running the country responsibly requires rising above partisan politics regardless of the childish and irresponsible behavior of the GOP. For Obama the country really does come first. The thing I will find interesting is how Tea Partiers react to adding to the deficit in this way. Another thing I think Obama achieved by this deal is getting time in the lame duck session for legislation other than taxes..DADT, START etc. We'll see if that works.

Posted by: Heather on December 7, 2010 at 8:43 AM | PERMALINK

"The deal also includes a reduction in the Social Security payroll tax, which will give workers a boost in their paychecks; an expanded earned-income tax credit; the continuation of a college-tuition tax credit; and new opportunities for businesses to write off the cost of some equipment purchases."

Haven't many Republicans advocated these measures too? I don't see how you can count them solely as gains by democrats in this deal.

The Clintonian centrism that many of us predicted of Obama has now come to fruition.

The cognitive dissonance of Republicans is now the mode of operation by everyone in D.C. Muddle today, crash tomorrow. Clusterfuck by default.

Posted by: lou on December 7, 2010 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

This post is just proof that drinking kool-aid from the Obama supply is just as lethal to critical thinking as drinking from the Bush supply.

Posted by: Paul on December 7, 2010 at 8:46 AM | PERMALINK

Nice of you to put a smile on it for the president, Steve, but this was an unmitigated failure.

All of the things that you list as what the president "got" in exchange for extending the top tax cuts should have been things that a Congress in its right mind would have passed anyway.

The president got nothing, the American people got screwed.

Posted by: karen marie on December 7, 2010 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

Wow! We got a small short-term loan at only 300% interest! Wow! I got my child with drug problems to say he'll use only coke! Wow! I got my captors who have been starving me to give me a bite of their sandwich! And all I had to do was agree to be a captive for another 2 years!

Nothing about this is good. It will lead to republicans winning the 2012 elections and making tax cuts permanent.

Posted by: ComradeAnon on December 7, 2010 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

I was outraged at first, too, but thinking about it some more it looks like Obama is taking an interesting, and potentially quite successful gamble here. The gamble is that, by 2012, the economy will have recovered enough that people will be honestly, seriously concerned about reducing the deficit. As opposed to now, when the deficit is an applause line but the lousy economy is clearly the greater concern, both objectively and (the polls tell us) in the public mind.

And in the runup to 2012, a challenge to the Republicans - do you want to get serious about the deficit, or do you want to keep helping the super-rich? - will have more bite. Especially if their credibility will have been dented by two years of obvious idiocy, quite possibly including (again, a gamble, but with very good odds) at least one Schiavo-like outrage. The kind of event which makes it clear that their fealty to their social conservative base is completely at odds with the other 70% of the public.

Right now, the fight against the low 250k+ rates is just, sound, but ultimately futile, given that the blue dogs won't support it. Two years from now, things may well look very different. And remember that the political payoff then will depend on the debate then, not on what happens now.

And meanwhile, the enervating monthly fights about UI are (for a year) over, plus there's the payroll tax and EITC to provide some stimulus. So maybe this was an OK deal after all.

Posted by: Basilisc on December 7, 2010 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

The, "this deal looks like a second stimulus" meme might work for a day or two. Maybe Obama and several Senate Democrats should apply for vacancies at New York ad agencies, if there are any vacancies in this economy. But, as long as the rich get richer who can complain.

Posted by: max on December 7, 2010 at 8:48 AM | PERMALINK

Here's how a sane party would portray this to the people of the United States -- after it's signed:

* Together with the first stimulus, President Obama has enacted more in tax cuts than any president in history.

* This is thousands of dollars in the pockets this year of middle income Americans -- dollars that come back into the economy even now as Americans shop for the holidays.

* This represents a second stimulus -- larger than the first -- so we thank our Republican counterparts for placing short-term jobs ahead of long-term deficits.

* Thanks for the fast action of President Obama, you don't need to worry about your paychecks on January 1 or any time in the next two years. In fact, because of this, many, many more of you will be getting paychecks.

* Thanks for the fast action of President Obama, Congress didn't waste time on a trainwreck battle-to-the-death, and proceeded to repeal DADT, pass the New START treaty, and forced the Republicans to take a stand against a very common sense measure on immigration.

* While we know that we have very different priorities than the Republicans -- especially on how we shoulder the burden of eventually getting to balanced budgets -- we will defer that fight until another day when your immediate income isn't at stake in the matter.

But will we see this embrace of reality? This perspective on how the average American voter might view these proceedings? Or might view these proceedings if we'd portray them as they could be portrayed?

It's worth detaching from ideology periodically to see how a deal like this could look from the other side, or from a long-term perspective. For instance, as steamed as progressives are this morning, what do you think awaits Boehner and McConnell from their Tea Party overlords when word gets out that this is an unfunded $900 BILLION stimulus, bigger than the first? The purists on the other side will be working just as hard to kill the deal...and there's Obama in the middle, right where he wants and needs to be.

Posted by: Mark on December 7, 2010 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK

Reagan was the "Great Communicator", Obama? The "Great Capitulator".

He is a weak example of a leader who campaigned on strong principles that even swayed many republicans to vote for change. The lower and middle classes swept him into office because they were tired of the GOP crap. What we got for our efforts was a guy who has, from the start, capitulated to the relentless pressure of the losing side. Bush, for all of his grievous faults, ignored the democrats and got everything he wanted come hell or high water. That what he got was ruinous to the country is besides the point. He used political skills to give his "side" success with their agenda. Obama? Not so much.

Obama possesses very little of those skills. He took a moral majority and strong progressive base and turned both into a "run away" attitude backing down each time. He looks and acts like a beaten dog largely due to his own ineptness.

A one termer for sure.

Posted by: stevio on December 7, 2010 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK

i want to know why obama mentioned 2-million people losing their unemployment benefits (the 99ers) against a back drop of tax cuts for the wealthy...

when the deal gives the wealthy everything they could have hoped for over the next 2-years..

while the 99ers got nothing..

Posted by: mr. irony on December 7, 2010 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

Mark beat me to it.
Thanks, Mark, BINGO!
It's not that bad a deal at all, and read his comment above for the Teabagger reaction to this "Stealth Stimulus."
It might help change youre minda a little bit.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on December 7, 2010 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK

Okay the battle for public opinion starts now.

The Republican view as seen from the center of Tucson, Az.

Abolish unemployment insurance, Medicaid, and the Fed, go back to the glorious 19th century when large banks controlled the flow of money, monopolies cheated everyone, and wages were so low the slums of NY were only a step above those of today's Calcutta.

It was a fetid existence for most people... life expectancy was low, plagues flitted across the land,  and the gap between rich and poor rivaled that of pre-revolutionary France... the rich could build hotel sized houses with gigantic Tiffany windows produced by keeping wages were low, keeping state sponsored debtors prisons, suppressing unions with armed men, and the forcing the unemployed to fend for themselves. This seems to be just the way the modern day Republicans want it to be.

"Impossible!" you say. I ask you, WHY do they defend the irresponsible spending habits of the over rich and denounced modern safety net programs if they do not intend it a return to the century?

America and the world was never more prosperous than during those times when taxes on the rich were high. THE SOLUTION to our problems is to tax the über rich and use the money extend unemployment insurance and to build infrastructure paying good wages for good work to good people.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on December 7, 2010 at 9:00 AM | PERMALINK

Mark beat me to it.
Thanks, Mark, BINGO!
It's not that bad a deal at all, and read his comment above for the Teabagger reaction to this "Stealth Stimulus."
It might help change youre minda a little bit.


Posted by: What's Left on December 7, 2010 at 9:04 AM | PERMALINK

I mourn for my country and the direction that it is going.

Is there anything that Obama can do to redeem himself in my eyes? Probably not! If he could, it would be by addressing the following four (in my perspective) biggest FAILURES of his administration.

Failure Number One: Upon taking office, Obama directed the DOJ and Holder to not pursue the criminal activities of the Bush administration. Now we have Bush and Cheney running around the country telling all how proud they are of their war crimes.

Obama can make a start toward redemption by ordering Holder and the DOJ to begin the investigations THAT THEY ARE REQUIRED TO DO BY INTERNATIONAL LAW AND TREATY.

Failure Number Two: We are still in Iraq and Obama keeps getting us dug into a bigger hole in Afganistan. Obama has the ownership of Afganistan, but has allowed General Betrayus to lead him by the nose.

Obama can make a start toward redemption by finishing getting out of Iraq and by, at least, PROVIDE CLEAR REASONS/OBJECTIVES FOR REMAINING IN AFGANISTAN AND TIMEFRAMES TO ACHIEVE THOSE that pass the smell test of being more than the wet dreams of the generals.

Failure Number Three: During the process of attempting to get health care reform legislation, Obama surrendered on having a viable public option. Having mandates to acquire health care insurance, without having a viable public option that could actually control costs, is a political disaster that will only deepen as people are required to buy insurance at ever increasing costs and profits to the health care insurance industry.

Obama can make a step toward redemption by using executive means to IMPLEMENT A PUBLIC OPTION that would have a chance of holding down costs.

Failure Number Four: On so many things, Obama has shown himself to be a 'compromisor' who gets rolled 'after the compromise'. On these tax cuts, including additional tax cuts for the millionares and billionares and their estates, Obama has only obtained 'promises' to pass what Obama says he wants in return. I will be surprised if this is not another 'Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown'. As the deficit continues to balloon because of these tax cuts, the rethugs and their corporate media echo chambers will scream louder and louder for what will amount to the destruction of social security and other social program spending.

What Obama can do to partially redeem himself is to VETO THE WHOLE DAMN EXTENSION OF TAX CUTS after the rethugs go back on their 'promises' again.

Needless to say, I have ZERO hopes that Obama will take any of these actions. What makes it all so much more frustrating is that I know that I will likely support Obama in 2012, because the rethug candidate will probably be even worse than John McCrap was. It is not joyous to know that you will need to support 'the lesser of two weasels'.

Posted by: SadOldVet on December 7, 2010 at 9:05 AM | PERMALINK

This deal is all about 2012 to Obama. He needs help for the economy. This is the only way to get it. If the economy perks up by 2012, Obama gets re-elected (barring a terrorist attack.) Dems utterly failed to use the tax-cuts-for-the-rich weapon in the midterms, but since the extension is for two years, that weapon will be available again in 2012. It might even be better then. Why waste such a good issue on a midterm, when you can use it in a general election?

I'm very surprised the repubs agreed to a temporary two year extension. They wanted the cuts to be permanent. They caved. They will need to fight this battle again, and it's a losing battle. If the Dems play this right, Obama is re-elected, they retake the House, and lose the Senate in 2012 (too many Dems in red states up for re-election in two years.)

Posted by: Tim H on December 7, 2010 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

bernie sanders in 2012!!

Posted by: just bill on December 7, 2010 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

this deal looks like a second stimulus

Tax cuts are poor stimulus, but this is the only stimulus that Dems are likely to get passed.

Now the ball is in the Republicans court to deal with the deficits.

Posted by: Stephen on December 7, 2010 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

Capitulation! 98% of Americans lose again.

Posted by: impartial on December 7, 2010 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

Obama just killed Social Security and you folks are just not smart enough to realize that.

Reducing the revenues SS takes in by ONE THIRD is the same as killing it.

(reducing by 2 percentages points from 6.2 percentages points is a 1/3 reduction is revenues).

Nice "deal" that. Give money to rich people and take it from SS. What do you think's going to happen in one year when it comes time to raise back the rates? What just happened this year?

You people are dumb. Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb.

Steve, specifically, is worse than the rest of you. Rather than a new era just like LBJ and FDR (as Steve was touting during the HCR debate), Obama is attacking and destroying SS directly.
Clinton raised taxes in a recession and the US economy picked up. FDR created SS in a recession. Obama has now done the exact opposite of both; lowered taxes and reduced SS.

What he always wanted.
Where are the "smart commentators" to now tell us that the POTUS is "powerless" until we get 60 votes?. Amazing how he can cut a deal when he wants to. True colors have come out.

You people are dumber than a bag of rocks.

Posted by: Observer on December 7, 2010 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

Steve, this post is the Political Blogger's version of Stockholm Syndrome. It's $800 billion, of which $56 billion (unemployment) is something the Republic Party didn't want to fund.

The tax cuts will expire two years from now-- making them a campaign issue in 2012, when Congrees will have even less stomach for letting them go.

Both the Estate Tax and Capital Gains are giveaways to the Super-Rich.

And the payroll tax holiday is going to destabilize Social Security, which can be used as an excuse for cuts.

And you're relieved by this deal? Well, that's you.

I will acknowledge that 13 months extension of unemployment is better than I expected... but I didn't expect to see a lot of this stuff in here either.

As is customary, Barry Soetoro got rolled.

Posted by: Woodrow L. Goode, IV on December 7, 2010 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

If tax cuts for rich people were really all the Rs care about [and I tend to agree] seems like a real bargain would be to get unemployment insurance, AND a promise from McConnell to let Defense Authorization to the floor, AND START treat votes, AND votes on held up nominations AND the estate tax bullshit taken care of.

Posted by: bigtuna on December 7, 2010 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

John B. is right. Obama isn't superman and the spineless D's in Congress put him in the worst possible negotiating position. You sneered (rightly) at Bush for wishing continually for a pony in Iraq, but progressives seem unable to see how they are the ones now wishing for their own pony.

I give Obama credit for continuing to hold out for the unemployed, a class that, apparently Krugman and the geniuses at Daily Kos, are willing to sell out.

I just hope, against hope, really, that Democrats have the guts to tell the Republicans that they have now lost the right to talk about deficit spending once and for all time.

Posted by: Barbara on December 7, 2010 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

"You people are dumber than a bag of rocks."

Go easy on them. They got played. They wanted to get played. They enjoyed getting played. Evidence was right in front of them that Barry had been bought years ago and they never even looked. They are going to blame everyone but themselves. And Steve? Well, he has a good gig. You gotta keep it going.

Posted by: Bought & Sold on December 7, 2010 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

Observer was nicer about it than I was going to be.
Are these not the same people that have been clutching pearls about SS running out of money? Then take a big chunk out of it ? In about 18 mos. they will start chopping the rest of it down..Smooth move!!!

Posted by: roughdraft on December 7, 2010 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

For anyone interested, here's my take on it:
Compromise Makes Liberal Jesus Cry

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on December 7, 2010 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

This place is really sounding like the Daily Kos.

Posted by: James Parente on December 7, 2010 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

Well, it's easy to spot the trolls here: they can't help themselves from slipping into racially tinged personal animosity. Hint: using "Barry" and "Soetero" is a dead give away.

Posted by: Barbara on December 7, 2010 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, I've never quite understood the point they think they're making by calling Obama "Barry." So, because someone uses a nickname at one point in their lives this means it's their real name? I once had a co-worker call me "Jeff" for three months, even though it's not even close to my name. Am I Jeff anyway?

And hell, I thought their whole point was that Obama's a foreign Muslim. So you'd think they'd prefer the oddity of "Barack." But no, as is typical of their style, they'll take any attack they can find, even if it contradicts their other attacks. Yes, Barry is more American than Barack, but they perceive it as being the bigger insult, so that's what they go with. What weird people.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on December 7, 2010 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on December 7, 2010 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

We call him Barry because he's our pal, our buddy. He's got our back and keeps our interests at heart. As for you? Well...

Posted by: Lloyd B. on December 7, 2010 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

"Obama was able to secure help for the middle class and the unemployed; Republicans were able to keep breaks for the wealthy. In other words, both sides got to fight for their natural constituencies."

So, one side gets a two year extension. The other thirteen months. What about COBRA subsidies? Oh, the President did "well." Yep, you nailed it--"low expectations..."

Posted by: Cas on December 7, 2010 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

Obama needs to round up all the Republicans and detain them in Gitmo and pass an EO that makes being a Republican against the law. Then he must declare himself Emperor of America, and do everything people in the comments on blogs demand.

Anything less is total failure.

Posted by: John S. on December 7, 2010 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

The Republicans have, quite literally, won a KING's RANSOM by holding the nation hostage.

Posted by: Andy Olsen on December 7, 2010 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

Leonhardt:You're then left with more than $300 billion in net stimulus over two years. And while that sum will not be enough to fix the economy all by itself, it is serious money.

$150 billion/year for two years in a $15 trillion economy is “serious money” ?


Posted by: Joe Friday on December 7, 2010 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

Ain't it great?

Folks are now realizing that we have a government for the rich and nothing but the rich, so help us god.

Stop sending money to politicians, the good ones can't do anything anyway.....

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on December 7, 2010 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

Reading through this thread, I am so damn sick of the pathological, childish whining that can be counted on to come from the so-called left about ANYTHING and EVERYTHING. Is that all that being a "liberal" is good for anymore - making oneself useless to any progress whatsoever (and by progress, I mean, recognizing that this is a good outcome to have come out of Democratic negotiators having to sit in a room with a bunch of treasonous loons (the GOP) and to have gotten SOMETHING of value done). Where are the grown-up liberals (besides Steve Benen).

How is:

* A 13-month extension of unemployment benefits (so that we don't have to go through this Republican-hostage-taking drama every few months over extending unemployment benefits);

* Reduced Social Security payroll taxes
(NYT: It would reduce the 6.2 percent Social Security payroll tax on all wage earners by two percentage points for one year, putting more money in the paychecks of workers. For a family earning $50,000 a year, it would amount to a savings of $1,000. For a worker slated to pay the maximum tax — $6,621.60 on income of $106,800 or more in 2011 — the cut would mean a savings of $2,136.);

*Education tax credits
(NYT: The deal would also continue a college-tuition tax credit for some families, expand the earned-income tax credit and allow businesses to write off the cost of certain equipment purchases.);

* Extension of Recovery Act tax breaks;

and more....

-- How is that NOT of benefit to lower-income people and the middle-class?

The rage directed at Pres. Obama should be re-directed to the f*cked-up Republicans who insist on expanding the deficit over the next two years with their unfunded Bush tax cuts, at the expense of ANY other legislation EVER being passed again while they're in office. And in spite of these loons' demands, the Pres. still basically NEGOTIATED an extension of ALL of his policies which saved the economy in the first place.

And what do I read here? With just a few exceptions, the usual knee-jerk wailing-and-gnashing of teeth and zero indication that those engaging in the shirt-rending actually bothered to try to even understand what's in the deal and what had to be overcome in order to even get that far.

And that goes for the so-called House and Senate liberal contingent, too. Here's a novel idea - why not support your party once in a while, instead of always, always, always first-reaction-knee-capping it?

Posted by: June on December 7, 2010 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

This is the best? What would have been the 'worst'? This is like going to the store with no money and seeing 2 things you want but can't pay for, charging them both and sending your kids the bill.

Posted by: bandit on December 7, 2010 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

Jesus God, you A-list bloggers are completely corrupt and useless.

Posted by: TaosJohn on December 7, 2010 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

I guess that it boils down to the apologists and the idealists here. I am an idealist and I had believed that we finally had a Democratic president with a background in law with a spine that would stand up and turn this country around from being an authoritarian oligarchy. Boy, was I wrong. Obama will certainly be able to get a job in China negotiating on the behalf of Taiwan after his presidency is over. The sooner the better.

Posted by: tko on December 7, 2010 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

@tko - when people state they thought Obama ran for office to essentially demolish and re-invent this country -- oh, and immediately! -- how can that be taken seriously?

Idealism is fine, but where is the common sense? Yes, you were wrong. Obama ran on a platform of change and he has delivered that change in tangible ways large and small. "Idealists" are loath to admit that, though.

I have to wonder, what is the true ideal of those who profess to be idealists, and why is nothing less than their ideal to ever be acknowledged as good, or having the potential for good.

Posted by: June on December 7, 2010 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

What June said. Every WORD of it.

I am one of those unemployed people who has been desperately seeking work since Halloween 2009 - without any success. I was fortunate enough to have my unemployment benefits continue, especially during that two-month shutdown last summer. Which was, literally, a matter of LIFE and DEATH for me, since I didn't have any savings to fall back nor any relatives to assist.

I had been informed by the local Unemployment Office here in Louisville, KY that even if I did have a balance on my current tier, that the balace could be "frozen", unless Congress passed the UE extentions. So, literally, I had just two weeks of benefits to last me for God knows how long. On top of that, I'm still waiting for a reimbursement of my Halloween 2010 UE checks that went "missing". Probably stolen, ironically enough, just before Kentucky instituted Direct Deposit for the UE checks.

On top of that, the UE office, along with other state offices, are having continuous furloughs for their workers, so the state can balance the budget. Due to that, and other cost-cutting measures, they cut off the number of people that they can help in a day, requiring repeat visits to get various thorny problems solved (like my missing checks).

I fully understand and sympathize with my fellow liberals' rage at the Democrats not handling things better, but you need to realize - this is a LONG-TERM process we're in.

It will require voting in EVERY election, EVERY year, no matter how bad the "lesser of the two evils" are. Kos had it right the first time: "More and BETTER Democrats".

It requires letting your Senators and Congresspeople know where you stand, and letting them you know what they are doing - or AREN'T doing. And that goes for President Obama, too.

And notice, after he had that tough re-election bid in Nevada, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid started taking somewhat harder terms on the Republicans. Which I believe eventually led them to *reluctantly* come to the table with the President.

Now, we have to work even HARDER to get better folks in so we can FINALLY save this country.

Posted by: knightphoenix2 on December 7, 2010 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, calling him "Barry" is a trait I picked up from my old boss, an old Texas Pol who worked in the Johnson White House. When Johnson didn't like someone, he deliberately misspoke the person's name, and made fun of it.

It's actually a wonderfully targeted way to make the person you're displeased with upset or angry. Anyone who runs for election or seeks political power is a raging narcissist; it bothers them to hear their name mispronounced or misstated.

In this case, using the name also bothers the O-Bots. I can't make them upset that Barry is trying, for the second time, to kill Social Security. (The only other possibility being that he's such a political moron that he doesn't realize he's going to get rolled on this "Holiday" just as he did on the 250K cuts.)

But I can, by calling him "Barry", get them as upset about something as I am. Small compensation, but since we're now almost guaranteed a Republican President in 2012, I'll take what little I can get.

Posted by: Woodrow L. Goode, IV on December 7, 2010 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

You have to wonder at the logic of the @Woodrow's of the world.

Convinced that this Democratic President is "trying to kill Social Security," even though the HCR bill extended the life of Social Security by 12 years.

I would like to see a non-name-calling discussion on how this deal affects that number, a discussion consisting of facts and figures, not spittle-flecked poutrage.

@Woodrow's comment also reminds me that those on the left who relentlessly criticize Democrats and this president as not being liberal enough are ironically more and more happy to join forces with Tea Partiers and other right-wing fools, rather than EVER give Democrats an ounce of credit for anything.

Posted by: June on December 7, 2010 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK


What do you mean by "essentially demolish and re-invent this country". All he had to do was uphold the law and the oath he took when taking office. The US is a party to a treaty that requires torture be investigated. That's not my opinion, that is a law. That is only one issue. Obama has skirted the law on just as many occasions as Bush except starting an unnecessary war or two. Bush was stupid but he had enough balls to get his crooked crap through, often at inappropriate times, even using reconciliation if necessary. Obama seems considerably more intelligent than Bush but he a is a pussy but the ever shrinking middle class is always the one getting disproportionately screwed because of his half-measures. He has repeatedly deferred to the Congress to lead (water down without a remark from the WH) the way on issues. Does anybody remember a campaign promise about "no lobbyists" in the Obama administration. Seems like eons ago when that was discarded. We all know by now that the lobbyists are the ones allowed to write the laws, usually to the benefit of the industry involved in the legislation. The alternative theory is that when Democrats are "in power", they become as corrupt as Republicans, hence the need to knock Wikileaks off the Net. As for Obama's accomplishments, they were relatively small compared to what he could have accomplished if he had some balls. Public option for example.

Posted by: tko on December 7, 2010 at 7:21 PM | PERMALINK


There is a third alternative that goes back to that if you try to do too many things at one time, you don't do any of them well. Kind of describes the current president. His ME peacemaking effort just fizzled out too.

I used to be a supporter. I guess the tax cuts were the last straw.

Posted by: tko on December 7, 2010 at 7:33 PM | PERMALINK

"Here's a novel idea - why not support your party once in a while, instead of always, always, always first-reaction-knee-capping it?"
Posted by: June on December 7, 2010 at 12:53 PM

If you mean here to refer to the Democrats, that's the whole point: they have made it abundantly clear, and repeatedly so, in both word and deed, that they are not "our party."
The Publicans are clearly against us. But since the Democrats -- both the Congressional Dem's (taken as a whole; there are clearly some individual exceptions, but far too few) and the Obama administration -- have repeatedly demonstrated that they are not for us, as of now (and for several years at least) we have no party.

Posted by: smartalek on December 7, 2010 at 9:18 PM | PERMALINK

@smartalek: Your sentiments do not speak for me. I remain a proud Democrat.

Posted by: June on December 7, 2010 at 10:02 PM | PERMALINK

@tko - I can't decide who you've been listening to -- Glenn Beck, Jane Hamsher, Glenn Greenwald or whoever. But you seem to have swallowed all the misinformation from the left, as well as the right.

Posted by: June on December 7, 2010 at 10:07 PM | PERMALINK


I completely respect that -- but cannot agree. I wish that I could, but the facts and acts (and the rhetoric, which matters a great deal in an era of radically dueling worldviews, perceptions, and narratives) of the last 2 years leave me no alternative.
Not that "right" and "wrong" are subject to determination by popular vote, but I wonder with which of our judgements the majority of readers / commenters here might more closely align?

Posted by: smartalek on December 8, 2010 at 3:57 AM | PERMALINK



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