President Obama: A Decent Deal, a Weak Sales Job
In wheeling out his tax deal with the Republicans, President
He's succeeded in making his liberal allies in the House irate over swallowing continued tax cuts for the richest Americans without getting much credit for the add-ons to the deal that could stimulate the stagnant economy.
He allowed the initial focus on the deal to be his yielding to the Republican blackmail of holding middle-class tax cuts hostage to the rich tax cuts, a fight on which he had public support and simple justice on his side. His defense that he wasn't willing to have middle-class taxes go up in a dire economy didn't mask the fact of his surrender.
Belatedly, Obama trotted out his new chief economic adviser,
This latter rationalization only began to sink in to balking Democrats as the message was being pushed almost stealthily by the administration, so spooked had it become by the Republican denunciation of Obama's 2009 stimulus package as an utter failure.
Despite disappointment that the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act financing infrastructure and other construction projects across the country did not yield a dramatic economic upswing and drop in the unemployment rate, the stimulus was hardly inconsequential, either.
Consequently, the Republicans were easily able to bury any consideration of a second openly declared stimulus package, even as many economists and liberal Democrats argued one was desperately needed to get the economy out of the plateau into which it had settled.
Federal Reserve Board Chairman
Obama may not have exactly turned a sow's ear into a silk purse with the deal negotiated with the congressional
But if the deal survives the pushback from the unhappy Democrats on
Somewhat submerged in all the discussion of his "surrender" is the fact that the Republicans, while continuing to declare themselves as stalwart advocates of deficit reduction, are buying into a huge spending and tax-cut package approaching a trillion dollars by some estimates.
As long as the American economy remains "in the ditch," as campaigner Obama liked to say in the midterm elections, the drive for reducing the federal budget is going to play second fiddle to recovery, for all the clamor stirred up by the deficit hawks.
And with the Republican takeover of the House and increased numerical strength in the
Ironically, it took a political pasting in the midterms for Obama to take a major, tangible step toward the bipartisanship he mostly talked about in his 2008 campaign and in his first two years as president. Now it could prove to be either his unraveling within his own party or his ticket to reelection in 2012.
Jules Witcover's latest book is Joe Biden: A Life of Trial and Redemption (William Morrow).
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President Obama: A Decent Deal, a Weak Sales Job | Politics
(c) 2010 Jules Witcover, TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.