If you want to help the working poor, then for God's sake gouge the rich

If you haven't seen it, have a look at this quote from President Obama's press conference on the deal he cut with the Republicans.

So this notion that somehow we are willing to compromise too much reminds me of the debate that we had during health care. This is the public option debate all over again. So I pass a signature piece of legislation where we finally get health care for all Americans, something that Democrats had been fighting for for a hundred years, but because there was a provision in there that they didn't get that would have affected maybe a couple of million people, even though we got health insurance for 30 million people and the potential for lower premiums for 100 million people, that somehow that was a sign of weakness and compromise.

Now, if that's the standard by which we are measuring success or core principles, then let's face it, we will never get anything done. People will have the satisfaction of having a purist position and no victories for the American people. And we will be able to feel good about ourselves and sanctimonious about how pure our intentions are and how tough we are, and in the meantime, the American people are still seeing themselves not able to get health insurance because of preexisting conditions or not being able to pay their bills because their unemployment insurance ran out.

It's a nice piece of rhetoric (Talking Points Memo has the transcript of the whole press conference), but it nails down precisely my problem with the President's approach. My problem with Health Care Reform aligns with my problem with the auto industry bailout, financial reform and the latest tax deal. In every instance, the President has hidden behind some vulnerable community in order to excuse himself from sticking it to the rich and the very rich, as he should.

Let's bust some trusts. We live in a world where the rich are so rich that their richness is fat and lazy and self-perpertuating it has left us with an ever more boring, decadent, uninventive world, a world where the captains of industry work harder to keep things easy than create new markets by coming up with new products or services that folks could really use. That's where we are as a people. Drug companies spend more money on advertising than research. Banks screw their depositors six ways from Sunday and call it "financial innovation" and the Scions of Microsoft sit in Seattle and look only for good ideas to steal rather than coming up with good ideas of their own. We live in a world where rich people only get richer at the expense of other people, and you can sure as hell bet that those other people aren't other rich people.

OK, that's going to be my only purely rhetorical paragraph: let's get to the point. Obama isn't willing to play the serious brinksmanship it's going to take for the very rich to finally lose a fight. The screed goes on. Hit the link below and hang with me past the break.

The problem with health care reform is that the President failed to really go after cost (that is, rich people) -- forget the public option. That's not what this Liberal hated about his compromise. He refused to hit the doctors where they lived and make them take responsibility for medical mistakes and he refused to hit the insurance companies where they lived and force them to put their books up to real scrutiny. Until cost is dealt with, until he takes the inefficiencies out of the system that serve nothing but to line some bureaucratic and executive pockets, the system is still broken.
Sure, Obama can hide behind the fact that millions more are going to be in the system, but there is an excellent chance that those millions more are just going to exacerbate the inherent problems in the system because he didn't force doctors, hospitals and insurance companies to straighten out their byzantine system, cut out the 30% (or more) of health care expenses that's pure waste anyway and make it work for people again.

So some cushy lifestyles are protected.

But, in the immediate term, more people will have care. Good, but the system isn't really changed, though the insurance companies do have more customers.

Similarly, with Big Auto. It's true, if Ford and GM would have folded, a lot of folks would have been out of work. Of course, not everyone, because the factories that were good would have been gobbled up by Toyota and Co, but lots of people would have been out of work. True, but it would have also forced Big Auto to reckon with the fact that they rested on their laurels for far too long. It also would have driven up the cost of cars, in general, which, in the long term, might not have been such a bad thing. Cars are the reason this country is a sprawling mess. Where in a historical moment when more people are opting to move to places where cars are more optional, and with the rise of the car share program it's easier now than it has ever been.

That wouldn't have been a bad trend to accelerate. But Obama didn't. He bailed out Big Auto, allowing them to smog it up a bit longer and absolve themselves of their 80s laziness and their 90s excess.
Now, we come to tax reform, and Obama's hiding behind the unemployed. Look, I know that's a cold way to look at it, but if the economy manages to pull itself back together most of those folks will find work. When everyone who's on unemployment now comes off of it, we are left with a system that's fundamentally unchanged.

(((By the way, I'm probably raising a lot of hackles here at the notion that it's okay to sacrifice some people's quality of life now in order to build a more progressive future, but it's precisely because the Right knows the Left will never take it to the brink that we lose these negotiations -- maybe I'll write more about this someday)))

If, on the other hand, Obama had said, "Fine, you won't let me kill the Bush Era tax cuts for the rich? I'll let them expire for everyone," then we would have had a structurally different economy. Structurally different, as far as legislation can be, permanently. How: the Government would have had much, much more money to work with.

Remember this: unemployment benefits are not redistributive as long as they are financed with debt. It only redistributes resources between people without work now and people who are working some time in the future. Benefits would be redistributive if we financed them with taxes on people who are working now (especially if we financed them with taxes on people who are earning a lot now), but if they are financed with debt they aren't weapons in the class war at all.
They are just band aids preventing the Class War (go ahead... call me a Leninist - no one will get the reference anyway).

And by the way, from the perspective of national debt, the compromise was the worst of the three major proposals.

If Obama had let the Unemployment Benefits expire the unemployed could have organized to really stick it to the Republicans and still gotten the extension. Who knows? They might have, but now they have no motivation to do anything but take the checks and hope for work and then go back to a world that is exactly as it was under Bush. Same tax structure overwhelmingly favoring rich people, making it easier and easier for those folks to stay rich and harder and harder for working folks to be anything but vulnerable to the capricious gambling of the very rich.

It's true: the next few months will be easier for the working poor, but when they do get back to work then nothing will have changed. The President said this in the quote above: "Now, if that's the standard by which we are measuring success or core principles, then let's face it, we will never get anything done."
Mr. President, what did you get done?

We have the same tax structure we had before you took office! Some folks can pay the rent a bit longer, but that extension will end and nothing will have changed. All you succeeded in was preventing Republicans from going after you in 2012 as the President who raised taxes (a pittance) on the middle class. Whoop-dee-doo. And, really, I doubt it's going to help you much.

We are not helping low income people by going into deeper and deeper debt to pay to get them through the bad times. We will only help low income people when we start breaking up oligopolies in business, seriously stick it to the very wealthy in the tax code, stick it to the mega-rich corporations in corporate taxes, get rid of exemption after exemption after exemption until accountants have almost nothing to do in April and funnel that money into proven economy driving investments: higher education, mass transit, energy, basic scientific research and water projects. Then people will really be working. Then people will start seeing possibilities.

You think giving people a check every month and telling them to cross their fingers is "hope," Mr. President? That's not hope. That's just a little more time to pray. Show them they can believe the impossible: that the rich guy, the big guy, the guy that fired them, that that guy can finally get the raw end of a deal for once and that will show him how to have the "hope" you're so all fired up about.

We're two years in and for my money this is still a world much as it was, and until you're finally willing to make the hard choices and stick it to the Martha's Vineyard set, don't come talking to me with your self-righteous talk of "pragmatic compromise." Until the very rich quite getting lots, lots richer all the time, I'm not impressed.

To that, the President has this:

And I understand the desire for a fight. I'm sympathetic to that. I'm as opposed to the high-end tax cuts today as I've been for years. In the long run, we simply can't afford them. And when they expire in two years, I will fight to end them, just as I suspect the Republican Party may fight to end the middle-class tax cuts that I've championed and that they've opposed.

If you're not going to fight now, Mr. President, then when? Two years from now, when the cuts are up to expire again? In your reelection year? No doubt, no doubt, we'll all be waiting for you to get your battle axe out... then.

Ok, unbridled rhetoric again ("battle axe"? seriously). I guess I didn't stick to my guns either. Maybe I should let one of the President's interlocutors from the press conference wrap this up:

Chuck Todd: If I may follow, aren't you telegraphing, though, a negotiating strategy of how the Republicans can beat you in negotiations all the way through the next year because they can just stick to their guns, stay united, be unwilling to budge -- to use your words -- and force you to capitulate?

The local tax fight is also about the oligarchy

Many of us are in tune with the national tax issues you raise, Brady, but don't see their connection to local tax issues that come up every year in Phily. But they ARE connected. We have to start that conversation.

You're right, but...

Stan, you're 100% right and I support everything you're saying about the tax structure, but you'll probably never see me get all that strident about it. The fight over resources in Philadelphia is primarily about "How much do we spend to keep people alive and keep people not entirely miserable?" Both totally fine goals, but doesn't present the possibilities, to me, of fighting back against the larger trends making ours a lazier, less inventive, less exciting nation to live in.

The national tax structure has access to really dramatic amounts of resources that it can pull out of the too rich segments and invest in the engines of good innovation (like energy and mass transit) -- Philadelphia does not seem to me to have either the will nor the resources to really get interesting with its expenditures. With transformative moves in resources America could create a new economy in green energy, reignite the spark in scientific research and end the gridlock on our highways making it even easier for more people to travel (by non-car means) outside their comfort zones and really go exploring again.

That's the kind of world I get pumped about writing about. Writing to make sure we've got enough cops and our health centers stay open is all important, but it doesn't get my blood pumping. To take the inevitable resort to metaphor, I'm less interested in staunching the bleeding than putting the body on a workout program.

This Too Will Pass, adventures by the season.

The big oligarchy is made up of lots of little oligarchies

There was an article about the new head of the Chamber of Commerce yesterday which mentioned in passing that the local Chamber, contrary to rumor, is not pulling out of the National Chamber. That means they support the tax cuts for the super-rich and all of the other blood-sucking policies of the radical right. That needs to be exposed, and one way to expose it is to show that they´re for the same policies locally. And it happens that there´s a local election coming up in which we could make the Chamber, and it´s oligarchic ideas an issue, if not the issue. If we don´t, then they and their tools get to make the "greedy" unions the issue. And that´happens to be the national theme that the right is playing like a violin everywhere at this time. So I understand why you want to deal with the big issues, and so do I. But one thing the right does well is find a way to be present in every arena. We need to do that too.

Not big issues; big money

I didn't say I wanted to deal with big issues. I said I wasn't interested in thinking about a place or pool of resources that isn't likely to use those resources in a visionary way.
Look, Stan, I 100% agree with you. I just don't see the fight as particularly interesting in Philadelphia.
Other cities have made visionary moves, but I don't see it happening here. I just can't get pumped about it.

But you're right. All the big fights are really just amalgamations of local fights. No question.

This Too Will Pass, adventures by the season.

Fine Tuning Needed

BradlyDale, somewhere in your post you needed to change the subject or hedge that Warren Buffet along with 44 millionaire urged that this tax cut extension not be passed.

Also President was cracking down enough and complaining enough about the rich to have many of them see him as an opponent to sabotage his policies. He needed to assure them that he wasn’t there enemy and he succeeded

I’m glad Nancy and Burnie started saying ‘No. I wish they continued until progressives say ‘no’ just as much as conservatives. Then this awful comprise would have failed, and Obama succeeding at his image or go-between and mediator.

See[ Democrats saying "no" good news if ]


I have no clue what you are trying to say

...but that's pretty cool Warren Buffet said that. I once saw some research that above a certain threshold rich people generally get pretty liberal and don't have a problem with high taxes. Probably because they have more money than they can really enjoy anyway.

This Too Will Pass, adventures by the season.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Syndicate content