Article first published as Tax “Deal or No Deal” Ordeal on Technorati.
The details of President Obama’s tax “deal” were announced on Monday, and five days later Democrats are still strengthening their opposition. Viewed by many as a blackmail payment to Republicans who have held hostage any legislation to help hurting Americans until tax cuts for the top 2% were extended, Democrats from coast to coast are angry and active.
Opposition in the House is being led by Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) who, with Rep Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) help, has managed to coalesce the Democratic Caucus and intends to block the President’s proposal from reaching the floor. Meanwhile, the torch in the Senate is presently being carried by Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who stood up today and independently filibustered against the bill for more than 8 hours.
Analysis of the bill reveals that not only will huge income tax benefits be extended to the top 2%, but an even more expensive estate tax gift will be given to the top one-tenth of 1%. In exchange, unemployment benefits that have historically always been granted when unemployment is above 7.2% will be extended, the bottom 98% of Americans will get the tax cuts the Republicans have held hostage, certain income tax credits will be extended, and there will be a one-year 2% rate reduction for Social Security withholding.
Overall, Obama’s back-room deal is sweet indeed for the wealthy and sweeter still the more wealthy one is. It does also give tax relief for the middle class, but according to Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) it will actually increase taxes on individuals making less than $20,000 or household making less than $40,000.
But in spite of the dire state of the economy, the immensity of the deficit and the plight of the middle class, Democratic opposition is not unanimous. Such Democratic stalwarts as Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania have come out supporting approval of the proposal. And today, former President, Bill Clinton signed on to the list. To the person, these respected Democratic leaders assert that this is the best deal the democrats can get.
Sadly, it seems that President Obama, Governor Rendell, President Clinton and other Democrats who share their position are all completely missing the point. The situation we have in America right now is the result of decades of precisely the type of thinking these leaders espouse. It’s essentially business as usual deal making, and it gets us exactly NOWHERE. It’s the type of thinking that continues to build the bow wave that will soon wash across America again and take with it all but the wealthy who can weather the storm.
The fact of the matter is that the wellbeing of the majority of Americans has become so marginalized in the past 35 years that a huge portion of the populace now feels completely disenfranchised. The problem is so significant that less than 60% of registered voters typically bother to show up at the polls. But rather than address the core problem of voter participation, the process that President Obama and others in his best-we-can-get camp are pushing is focused on trying to sway the 19% of independents who form the center of this bare majority.
Enter the pendulum: this is the electoral system that created our present problem; the independents vote first one way and then the other — kick out the bums, become unsatisfied with the results, bring back the other bums — it’s a perpetual misery machine that pulses but never changes. It’s a closed system, and as stated by Einstein, it is therefore incapable of effecting real change.
If real change is what we want, then we must look outside of this closed system. We can no longer tolerate practices that serve only to maintain equilibrium, yet this is exactly what concentration on the 19% independent vote does. What’s needed is the introduction of new factors, the most significant of which should be an expanded electorate — a focus on tapping into that HUGE 40% or more of registered voters who stay home.
The Tea Party is evidence of the power of this phenomenon, albeit in a counterproductive direction. Allowed to continue, their discontent and belief that government is the enemy will form a vicious spiral that will only gain momentum. The President’s tax deal does nothing to alter this path. It is sadly a reinforcing mechanism that will help to sustain the descent.
What’s remarkable is that President Obama’s campaign of 2008 was the antithesis of the Tea Party movement. It too proved the power of expanding the electorate (62% turnout) and could have formed the roots of a peaceful revolution — a virtuous spiral. But alas it was not reinforced and was instead allowed to wither on the vine. Once elected, the President surrounded himself with status quo insiders and instead of being a force for real change became just another instrument of the establishment. He dedicated himself to doing what he had learned in Chicago politics — make deals. And in so doing, he failed in the most critical aspect of leading change; he failed to keep his supporters excited.
The President’s tax deal is a perpetuation of the system that’s responsible for the mess we’re in today. It offers temporary relief for structural problems and serves to exacerbate the issue of massive concentration of wealth — the very dynamic that brought us to economic collapse and a jobless recovery. The President’s deal does nothing to actually change the system, while potentially opening the door to further chipping away of our social safety net. It is at best a short term bandage that splits the proceeds evenly between the two sides, but where one side consists of 98% of all Americans and the other side is a minuscule elite minority.
Those on the left who advocate this deal are supporting the continued demise of the American middle class. Giving them the benefit of the doubt with regard to motive, they’re doing this because they believe that this is the best deal we can get. That belief is bred in the acceptance of 55% voter turnout and born of the notion that change must be sought by swinging that 19% independent vote. This is simple and utter defeatist nonsense.
The last thing we need moving forward are any more “deals.” What America needs is to excite the sleeping masses. Those who want to maintain the status quo fight diligently to break voter’s spirits and have them believe they can’t make any difference. Those who desire a better America need to break the trend. They need to motivate and inform the disenfranchised mass of voters who no longer participate. They need to give people a reason to get involved — and that will never result from making more back-room deals — it will only happen when the forces for change stand and differentiate themselves from the powers of resistance.