Reports circulate that President Obama may agree to a massive all cuts debt ceiling package, creating a lot of anger and a sense of betrayal because Obama will fold on his demand that any debt ceiling package contain at least a small amount of new revenue. I can’t understand the amount of anger though because from the moment Obama made this his bizarre line in the sand, chances were he would break his word. Demanding what was basically a symbolic level of loophole closing is such a small and silly hill of sand to fight over, and there was no way Obama was actually going to die on it.

If I were forced into foolishly negotiating a deficit grand bargain at this moment, as a progressive or even a traditional Democrat, there are many things I would consider making my legitimate must haves, including a jobs program. For example:

  • Any plan must not cut Medicare or Social Security benefits
  • Any plan must contain an immediate and large WPA-style direct jobs program. (FYI, a payroll tax cut for companies does count)
  • Health care deficit reductions must not come from cost shifting onto patients but can only be the result of making health care more efficent. This can be done via drug re-importation, Medicare direct drug price negotiation, adding strong public option, adopting all-payer, adopting single payer, etc…
  • A significant carbon tax must be part of any package.
  • A “balanced” deficit reduction must be 50/50 cuts and new tax revenue. This better policy than almost all cuts, sounds politically reasonable, and helps stop the debate moving even more rightward for future deficit packages.
  • Any plan must not make anyone below 200% of the federal poverty level worse off.
  • Any long term deficit plan must also contain strong automatic stabilizers for any future downturns.

Any one of these or combination thereof would be a legitimate line in the sand. They would be important policy, political and moral stances that have long been part of the Democratic agenda.

Obama simply demanding that up to 15 percent of a deficit package must come from closing some tax loopholes is just silly. As a progressive, I would like to close some corporate loopholes but compared to everything else in the debate, this is minor.  And it isn’t a moral or principled stance. It is just a lame demand for a token increase in revenue for political purposes.

Even the idea that the only thing Obama would go to the mat on here is a symbolic tax increase is almost comical, given his history of not fighting to raise taxes. Obama promised to let the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire, but when it came down do it, he let it slide. In fact, the deal he made to extend them actually included more tax cuts. And now reports are Obama is searching for a way to avoid having this tax fight again in 2012.

It is bizarre to have Obama basically saying “I will “give in” on Social Security cuts but only to achieve my goal of changing how corporations deduct the purchase of a jet.” It just defies credulity to think a small amount of new revenue was ever really his line in the sand.

I’m not surprised Obama broke his word to his supporters again. But I am surprised he would choose to stick his flag on such a small pile of sand knowing he’ll give it up  in the end. I’m also surprised anyone takes Obama’s stances seriously anymore.

Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at http://pendinghorizon.com

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