Tuesday, December 7, 2010

My Reaction to Obama's Decision on Bush Tax Cuts

I was asked to express my reactions to Obama's decision to compromise with the GOP. Frankly, I do not think that it was a compromise. He gave up on one of the major promises that he made when was campaigning. The GOP gave up very little in return. He lost big time.

I think that the president is a very smart person and I'm sure that he and his advisers looked at this issue very thoroughly, and that he made the best decision that could make given his options. That does not change the way that I feel about the decision. He is the President of the United States, but he has behaved on almost every issue like he is willing to give up on issues in which he believes in order to get whatever Congress and the GOP is willing to give him. I don't even get the feeling that he exerts as much pressure on his own party, as he might, to get what he wants. I had hoped that he would have been a more forceful leader.

I understand that the GOP has formidable weapons that it uses to mold public opinion on issues. After all, it has access to media outlets that are effectively propaganda tools for the GOP. On the other hand, Obama is the president and he could have used his office to do a better job of countering GOP propaganda and developing support for the platform he and his party ran on in 2008 to produce an historic victory. He should have been more like FDR and less like a lawyer who enjoys a good debate. FDR crucified the GOP for getting us into the depression and he accepted responsibility for leading the country out of the depression. Obama let the GOP put the blame on him for the bank bailout (which everyone hated) and seemed more interested in winning debate points than in leading. He also let them shift the debate from fixing the economy to reducing our long-term national debt. I would have pounded them hard for creating the largest deficits in US history under Reagan and Bush, which were the result of GOP tax policy that dramatically reduced the progressiveness of the US tax system. He should have explained to the American people why a progressive tax system was consistent with American values. I would have also attacked the GOP for threatening social security under Bush and defended social security as one of the best programs that government ever produced. Instead he created a commission to deal with our long-term debt problems which should be on the back burner.

I would have done things differently on the tax cut issue but I have the benefit of not worrying about the 2012 elections and other things that the president must be more informed about. My impulse would have been to call the GOP's bluff. If the Democrats and the President did nothing the Bush tax cuts would have expired under existing law. I would have blamed the GOP for letting the middle income tax cuts lapse. This may not have worked for Obama because the GOP would not have believed that he would stick to his guns. They knew that he would blink and they stuck to their guns and gave their real base a big victory. Obama's decision has made him look weaker and the GOP can do a victory lap. He will have a hard time energizing his base in 2012 after his performance and now that Bush is gone.

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