Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Barack Obama and the art of, er, "compromise"


[Don't forget to click to enlarge.]

by Ken

The news is so self-evidently horrible that it shouldn't really be necessary to say anything, but sometimes it's important to say the things that shouldn't really be necessary to say.

Everything I know about her says that she was a really special person -- the class of that family before we knew all the stuff we found out about her husband. People are saying, "Now she should have been president." Well, yeah.

Now back to our regularly scheduled rant. One measure of the darkness of the darkest years of the Bush regime was that more and more the most dependable news source became The Daily Show. Yeah, there were other places to turn for the facts, or at any rate such of the facts as the infotainment newsers deemed safe for transmittal. But for a sense of how those facts fit together, and the "thinking" (for want of a better word) behind them, Jon Stewart and his merry crew were the go-to folks.

I'm noticing that nowadays Howie and Noah and I seem to be quoting Andy Borowitz on a more or less daily basis. Once again, this seems to me a dire sign.

DECEMBER 7, 2010

In Latest Compromise with GOP, Obama Agrees He is a Muslim

Place of Birth ‘Negotiable,’ President Says

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) – In his latest effort to find common ground with Republicans in Congress, President Barack Obama said today that he was willing to agree that he is a Muslim.

Differences over his religious orientation have been a sore point between the President and his Republican foes for the past two years, but in agreeing that he is a Muslim Mr. Obama is sending a clear signal that he is trying to find consensus.

“The American people do not want to see us fighting in Washington,” Mr. Obama told reporters at the White House. “They want to see us working together to improve their lives, and Allah willing, we will.”

But Mr. Obama’s willing to back down on his claim of being a Christian does not seem to have satisfied his Republican opposition, as GOP leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) today insisted that the President must also agree that he was born in Kenya.

While Mr. Obama did not immediately agree to Rep. Bohener’s demand, he hinted that yet another compromise might be in the offing: “My place of birth has been, and will always be, negotiable.”

White House sources indicated today that the President might be willing to meet the GOP halfway on his birthplace and say that he was born in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

My own thinking, as I absorbed the so-far-known terms of the president's "compromise" with the forces of Total Darkness, was that, in the event that the band of hoodlums and loons who take over the House in January decide to go for impeachment, one shudders to think about the kind of "compromise" he and his crackerjack "team" will negotiate. He might or might not be able to save his own hide. (After all, why would the R's want him out of the White House before the 2012 elections? Could they ask for a better punching bag to ensure their takeback of the Senate and the White House?) The real question is how much else Team Obama will give away in the process -- stuff that wasn't theirs to give away in the first place.

The Progress Report has a good rundown of what was known about the terms as of when their writers wrote. In exchange for, basically, nothing (we'll come back to that in a moment), the congressional shock troops of the superrich got essentially everything they wanted regarding retention of the Bush tax cuts, the very tax cuts that candidate Barack Obama so righteously denounced.

As waggish pundits are already pointing out, if the superrich kick back just a small fraction of their windfall from retention of the Bush tax cuts -- which of course it should have been the politically slam-dunkiest of slam dunks for the administration to beat back, there being no imaginable political cover for hard-balling tools standing firm against their expiration -- they can pour enough cash into the 2012 campaign to swamp not just the president but any pol who either has a "D" next to his/her name or otherwise has shown uppitiness in the face of the power of the oligarchy. In other words, the president has just financed his own demise -- and again, worse, he'll be taking a lot of pols down with him who haven't necessarily earned that fate.

As for what the White House got in exchange, well, there's the extension of unemployment benefits, though with no help for the people who've maxed out at 99 weeks. This means that the Republicans will not have to take any heat as the Christmas Meanies who threw more of the unemployed out of their homes and otherwise made their lives living hell, not to mention having to answer for the considerable hit the economy would have taken from not having that money pumped into it. Republicans claim not to understand the whole concept of economic stimulus, but even they must understand that, in an economy suffering paralysis because of lack of demand, yanking that money out of the system is going to make matters worse.

Of course the UI benefits still have to be paid for, which means this is another opportunity for the new Congress to hold the White House hostage -- forcing it to even more rightward concessions that the administration probably wants to make anyway. Also still to be paid for is the "payroll tax cut," which apparently refers not to a drop in income-tax withholding rates, which is what I think of when I hear the term "payroll tax" (which of course wouldn't be a tax cut anyway, since it only lowers the amount withheld from our checks, not the amount owed in tax), but to a drop of some 2 percent in the rate of employee contributions to Social Security.

There's no question that the extra money in our paychecks will provide a stimulative burst. However, this sounds very fishy to me. Supposedly the newly created SS shortfall is to be made up by shuffling government money around, but this still means that Congress has to find the money, at a time when Congress is going to be taking great pride in finding ways not to find money. Perhaps more ominous, even though Social Security isn't now and never has been part of the deficit, suddenly we're going to have Congress scrambling to find money to shovel into it, which is uncannily the very image the SS fear-mongers depend on to trick the public into thinking that there is a Social Security "crisis."

And then there's the stuff we don't really know about buried in the "compromise." As The Progress Report report notes, Ezra Klein has already caught the oligarchs slipping another piece of their agenda in: a sweetheart deal for the looming expiration of the estate-tax suspension. They couldn't get it through Congress before, but now they've got rates that those poor misunderstood millionaires apparently can live with. (Without congressional action the estate tax would have resumed at its old rates.) [UPDATE:: I should have noted that Ezra Klein in fact is generally supportive of the "compromise." "So is this a good deal? It's a lot better than I would've told you the White House was going to get if you'd asked me a week ago."]

Speaker Pelosi, preparing for her descent into the House minority leadership, has announced her extreme unhappiness with the deal. It remains to be seen whether that makes any difference.

Meanwhile the president, true to form, made clear at his press conference today that the bad guys here are -- who else? -- us irresponsible lefties, who have no grasp of reality and what's achievable. You don't suppose there's any chance that it's the Republican nomination he's going to be seeking in 2012, do you? Of course, as he always seem to forget, however frequently they remind him, they hate him.

It's not, I think, that President Obama doesn't want to do anything for ordinary Americans, along the lines of the things he seemed to be promising as candidate Obama. The thing to remember is that any hope and change he's prepared to fight for has to be hope and change that doesn't in any important way inconvenience the oligarchs whose servant he is.

Unfortunately for him, he isn't even likely to get whatever reward he thinks they owe him. After all, in the battle now being waged between the right-of-center ideology the president represents and the extreme-right ideology, or the various forms of it, now embodied by the GOP, why should our corporate masters settle for half a loaf?


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At 6:24 PM, Anonymous me said...

Jesus, I hate that motherfucking Obama.

At 7:00 AM, Anonymous Scoremore said...

If the concern is that a lot of the wealthy may cut or prevent job hires then why not provide a tax incentive for the business they are in charge of rather than boost their income? How many of those making 250K+ are directly responsible for hiring employees? I’d guess (I know I shouldn’t) that some proportion of these wealthy either inherited it, or or are responsible for a minimum (and not negotiable) number of jobs like doctors, lawyers, actors and sports players (the latter of course to a possibly negligible degree. It seems like a crude way to ensure job growth to just give them all tax reductions. I know there are already business incentives but proposing more to compromise would be much more helpful than flat out giving money to the wealthy. Of course there’s nothing wrong w/ giving money to anyone, except when there are people trying to make ends meet, with no purchasing power on their own to afford necessities like food and health care, which are by the way much more efficient for productivity than luxury cars and 4-star dinners. Something’s off here. Is it just that democrats are completely inept at explaining things or am I not understanding the message?


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