Dan Middleton’s Political Punditry, September 19: Part II of a Two-Part Series

Yesterday, I ended my note with a question. Given the Republican strategy to halt Congress from doing any meaningful work coupled with their deliberate repetition of lies about President Obama’s record (lies which are promulgated by a compliant and/or complicit media), can the president create a counter narrative which aggressively shows voters what specifically Republicans care about? Of course.

How? The economy has stalled; we are in a jobs emergency which is deep and perhaps irreversible. The Congress will do nothing, so the president addresses them, and is no more Mr. Nice Guy/let’s work together, but direct and forceful. He presents a 447 billion American Jobs Act which is stimulative and sensible and paid for. 31 million watch, and all polling shows more people favor the plan then oppose, and once they are told about what is in the bill, the numbers are even better. For example: from the Times/CBS poll,

Cut payroll taxesGood idea 56%, bad idea 30%

State aid to prevent public-sector layoffs
Good idea 52%, bad idea 40%

Infrastructure investments
Good idea 80%, bad idea 16%

Small business tax cuts
Good idea 81%, bad idea 14%

So the American Jobs Act is one bookend. 

Later this Fall, the Congress is mandated by law to reduce the deficit by 3 trillion dollars (one trillion has already been agreed to). Republicans want to only slash grievous wounds into the social safety net, education, and scientific research without asking for any additional tax revenue. Because life is hard enough for guys like this: 

“By the time I feed my family, I have maybe $400,000 left over,” – Rep. John Fleming (R-LA), in an interview on MSNBC, on why as a small business owner he can’t afford a tax increase.


So the president comes out today, and outlines not only his expectations for the cuts (Krugman! please try, for once, to breathe easy: no cuts to Social Security, no raising of the retirement age for Medicare), but most importantly, the president demands forcefully that a trillion dollars in tax increases (mainly by letting the disastrous Bush tax cuts finally expire, and closing a myriad of loopholes, like the one which allows billionaire hedge fund managers pay a 15% rate, and a millionaire tax–the “Buffet Tax”–which would affect only 440,000 U.S households) MUST be included or he will VETO the whole damned thing.

Do yourself a favor, and watch or read his remarks. Impassioned, some of it off the cuff:
I am ready, I am eager, to work with Democrats and Republicans to reform the tax code to make it simpler, make it fairer, and make America more competitive. But any reform plan will have to raise revenue to help close our deficit. That has to be part of the formula. And any reform should follow another simple principle: Middle-class families shouldn’t pay higher taxes than millionaires and billionaires. That’s pretty straightforward. It’s hard to argue against that. Warren Buffett’s secretary shouldn’t pay a higher tax rate than Warren Buffett. There is no justification for it.

“It is wrong that in the United States of America, a teacher or a nurse or a construction worker who earns $50,000 should pay higher tax rates than somebody pulling in $50 million. Anybody who says we can’t change the tax code to correct that, anyone who has signed some pledge to protect every single tax loophole so long as they live, they should be called out. They should have to defend that unfairness — explain why somebody who’s making $50 million a year in the financial markets should be paying 15 percent on their taxes, when a teacher making $50,000 a year is paying more than that — paying a higher rate. They ought to have to answer for it. And if they’re pledged to keep that kind of unfairness in place, they should remember, the last time I checked the only pledge that really matters is the pledge we take to uphold the Constitution.

“Now, we’re already hearing the usual defenders of these kinds of loopholes saying this is just ‘class warfare.’ I reject the idea that asking a hedge fund manager to pay the same tax rate as a plumber or a teacher is class warfare. I think it’s just the right the thing to do…. All I’m saying is that those who have done well, including me, should pay our fair share in taxes to contribute to the nation that made our success possible. We shouldn’t get a better deal than ordinary families get.”

So there is the other bookend. Jobs at one end and balanced deficit reduction at the other, with the very powerful veto threat hovering unless taxes are raised, something that is overwhelmingly popularwith the electorate.

President Obama’s position on these bookended economic issues is sound intellectually, morally, and politically. The president has lost the thread of a narrative during parts of his presidency, which is a fair criticism. But I have been studying this guy for a few years, and regardless of what Maureen Dowd snarls, he is not an egghead wimp in man jeans; he has a vision of how to heal a traumatized nation, and now that he has established a clear, easy to understand, chasm-wide difference between him and the opposition, he will be relentless in letting people know that he will defend the social compact, despite all efforts by Republicans to destroy it.

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