Peril For The Tax Deal

Politicians on both sides of the aisle have been sitting on their porches and thinking dark thoughts, armored against the bitter cold by their growing hatred for the President’s deal with Republicans to extend the Bush tax rates.  Now some of them are lunging from their rocking chairs to grab microphones and declare their intention to kill the abominable thing in its messy crib.

On the Democrat side, Anthony Weiner of New York warns, “I don’t think the president should count on Democratic votes to get this deal passed.  It’s a bad deal that wasn’t skillfully negotiated.” 

Earl Pomeroy of North Dakota went in front of the brick wall to do a little stand-up comedy, performing a favorite routine of Democrats who want to raise taxes, in which they pretend to care about the deficit.  “It seems to me this Congress should not be adding substantially to the deficit,” he deadpanned, to the uproarious laughter of anyone who has paid the slightest bit of attention to what the House has been doing since Democrats took control in 2006.

The Associated Press tells us these recalcitrant Democrats enjoy no small amount of support from their constituents.  It doesn’t sound like plans to move on from this topic any time soon, as they released a statement saying, “The president’s commitment to bipartisanship should not mean leaving principles behind.”  Actually, that’s the definition of bipartisanship, when the two sides have diametrically opposed principles.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka thundered, “It is unconscionable that the price of support for struggling middle class families and workers who have been unable to find jobs for months and months and months is yet more giveaways for our country’s wealthiest families.”  Of course, many of Trumka’s union pals have secured precious waivers from ObamaCare, the greatest job-killing force devised in the past thirty years.

Meanwhile, conservative stalwart Jim DeMint of South Carolina says he will oppose the tax deal, and plans to filibuster it.  He’s not happy about the mixture of temporary tax cuts and extended unemployment benefits.  “I don’t think we need to extend unemployment any further without paying for it, and without making some modifications such as turning it into a loan at some point. It then encourages people to go back to work,” DeMint told conservative host Hugh Hewitt in a radio interview.  “We don’t need a temporary economy, which means we don’t need a temporary tax rate. A permanent extension of our current tax rates would allow businesses to plan five and ten years in advance, and that’s how you build an economy.”  This is really heartbreaking, after President Obama went out of his way to reach across the aisle to Republicans by repeatedly calling them terrorists.

DeMint also enjoys support from powerful elements of his constituency, including the Club for Growth, whose president Chris Chocola told ABC News, “This is bad policy, bad politics, and a bad deal for the American people.  The plan would resurrect the Death Tax, grow government, blow a hole in the deficit with unpaid-for spending, and do so without providing the permanent relief and security our economy needs to finally start hiring and growing again.”

The political realities that led to the tax deal are tough to get around.  The Democrats got creamed in the midterm elections, but they’re still in charge of the lame-duck session of Congress.  They don’t want people discussing their outrageous failure to settle tax policy or prepare a budget as Republicans ride to the rescue in the 112th Congress.  They’re looking at a very bad electoral map in 2012, and the savvier Democrats know that following their usual destructive policies will make it much worse.  Presidents get credit and blame for the economy, and congressional Democrats don’t relish hanging on to Obama’s negative coat-tails when he gets bounced out of office. 

Republicans, for their part, don’t want to spend the holidays running away from angry reporters trying to stuff them into Grinch costumes.  As fiscally unwise as further extension of unemployment benefits might be, it’s hard to argue with the assessment that blocking them in December will make the GOP responsible for every missing Christmas present in Whoville, as a sobbing Cindy Lou Who marches before a bank of microphones and flashing cameras to talk about how Republicans stole her daddy’s grocery money.  I want to fight the same battle as Jim DeMint.  I just don’t know if Christmas dinner, over a steaming plate of lame duck, is the right time to fight them.

One thing critics on both sides are right about: this is an uneasy deal to maintain the status quo.  No taxes are being cut, spending is still going up, and none of the factors which produced our current economies are changing.  The forces that produced the deal are probably too strong for Democrat and Republican holdouts to overcome.  The balance of forces will change when the 112th Congress convenes.  The situation had better change with them.  I can accept the tax deal as an unpleasant holding action while Republican reinforcements take the field.  If it turns out to be anything less, then President Obama and his party are whining and complaining about the greatest victory they’ve ever had.