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The Opposite of Leadership: President Obama’s Tax Cut for the Rich

Sometimes you need to just get away: Gibbs and Pres. Obama aboard Air Force One. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

It’s bad enough that the President is going to break a major campaign promise by giving the richest Americans a huge and undeserved tax cut. The real damage is done because he hides from his decision, negotiating with a political party dedicated to his destruction. Actually, he isn’t negotiating. He sent his bank-loving Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner and his no-name budget director Jack Lew. Obama can’t be bothered telling Americans why he has to negotiate with the unprincipled and thuggish Republicans.

Compromise makes sense in some cases, where the outcome is uncertain, and reducing uncertainty has an independent value. That is simply not the case with tax cuts for the rich. The outcome is certain. The Republicans don’t have the votes to win. So why is he negotiating?

Equally important, there is absolutely no merit to the Republican position, and they know it and so do we. The Republicans claim that we are facing horrible deficit problems, and that spending must be slashed, starting with social safety net programs. They claim that failure to take action will debase our currency, destroy profitable and necessary trading relations, and wreck our position in the world.

Then they turn around and claim that we can’t raise taxes on the richest Americans, or anyone else, for that matter. They claim that this would destroy our economy, and reduce us to penury, and remove the engine for growth, as if the rich were dedicated to providing jobs for anyone except themselves.

On one hand, Republicans claim we need to cut off money to the unemployed, retirees, and sick people, and on the other, they claim that the rich should be given a huge tax break.

There is no reason to compromise with people whose bargaining position makes no sense. There is no reason to abandon campaign promises and good policy for the sake of terrible politics.

President Obama hides behind Robert Gibbs, his press secretary, Geithner, a man best known for handing money to giant banks, and a host of anonymous leakers. He chooses to leave the battle in the hands of the notoriously weak Senate Democrats, a group utterly without principle or political courage.

He could have led. He could come out in public and explain the situation. He could explain why he has to compromise, he could explain the wonderful reasons why the Republicans are right to insist on cutting taxes for the wealthy and slashing social programs. He could tell us why he changed his mind. He could make a case for compromise.

Or, he could have rallied behind Nancy Pelosi, a real leader, who rubbed John Boehner’s weepy face in his trashy arguments and beat him and his band of hypocrites like a drum. He could do the same thing to the minority Senate Republicans. The President could call Harry Reid into his office, and remind Harry that he is a Democrat, and make Harry bludgeon the minority Republicans into the ground, force them to eat their words on this issue, and force them to admit that their only interest is protecting their fabulously wealthy patrons, even if it means damaging the rest of the nation.

The President went to Afghanistan instead. It’s as if he wants to tell us that he cares nothing for his promises to his supporters. He continues wars that cannot be won, and won’t fight wars that can and should be won, policy wars with people who are sworn to destroy him.

It’s embarrassing to see this weakness publicly displayed.

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