Obama: On the Brink Of Losing Progressive Support Forever

The temporary Bush tax cuts that were passed using reconciliation are set to expire on December 31st, 2010. If President Obama surrenders to the Republicans and allows the portion of those tax cuts that are aimed at wealthy Americans continue, he will likely sacrifice progressive support permanently.

The 2008 presidential election brought hope for a new path in America. Millions of formerly disenfranchised voters rose up to have their voices heard, and found a man who promised to deliver this new path of change: Barack Obama. The result was an electoral landslide and a clear mandate for reform.

Two years have passed and this new America has yet to be delivered. The centerpieces of progressive change were ending the military-industrial complex stranglehold over policy (Iraq War, torture, domestic espionage, and limitless budgets), delivering strong reforms to our nation’s failed health care system, and reversing tax and regulatory policy that favors the rich at the expense of everyone else. The first has failed, the second is severely watered-down, and the third is ready to be surrendered. If this happens, Obama and the Democrats can kiss progressive support goodbye.

The Democrats were already punished for their inability to get strong reforms passed in the last election. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is still in effect. Comprehensive Immigration Reform was not even proposed. Green energy projects were funded minimally in the Stimulus plan. Guantanamo is still open. There are 50,000 non-combat troops left in Iraq. As a result, there was a monumental enthusiasm gap in the midterms, and the Democrats lost the House.

That of course was not done in a vacuum, and was coupled with energized conservative turnout resulting from a defense consisting of an unprecedented campaign of negativity and obstruction, particularly from abusing the filibuster in the Senate.

To use a sports analogy: fans can only cheer on a team so long before the team has to make some spectacular plays and score some points. The Democrats were on offense, and they failed to get a touchdown, the Republicans were on defense, and they forced the punt, and now it is their ball. The home crowd is silent and disillusioned.

This is not to say there has not been a measurable change in direction in the country. There have been a few catalogues of the reform wins over the past two years compiled at What Obama Has Done [Comprehensive Edition], Democratic Change Update, and WTFHasObamaDoneSoFar.com.  These have not been epic wins however, and have been more than overshadowed by the failure of passing big reforms.

The most vocal progressive activists on the internet are ready to bolt. They have had enough of fighting for the real change and reform promised while the White House and most of the Democratic leadership sell out real change for a center-right solution, and are in serious danger of either moving their support to a third party (often the Greens) or just stepping back into the woodwork. The most tragic part about this is that if the Obama administration sells out their base with a Clintonian backflip, the conservatives will STILL attack him with the vindictive tenacity that they did to Bill Clinton. The movement for change and reform will die right then and there, and that is the danger here that cannot be stressed enough.

Fiscally Irresponsible Tax Cuts

The Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGTRRA) and Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003 (JGTRRA) should never have been passed in the first place. They were rammed through Congress using reconciliation and decreased government revenue by giving massive tax cuts mostly to the rich, increasing the exemption amount for the Alternative Minimum Tax, and lowered capital gains and dividend taxes.

The Bush/Cheney regime and the Republicans in Congress promised this would reduce the deficit by $2 trillion over 10 years before the bills expired, but has in fact increased it $2.5 trillion.  To add a little salt in this wound, they were deficit financed, so interest on the national debt from the Bush tax cuts would add substantially more to this.

This comes as no surprise to most who have paid attention to history, as fiscal conservatives has been the synonymous with “borrow and spend” policies since Ronald Reagan tripled the national debt. Republicans are responsible for 82% of our nation’s debt, particularly through failed “Starve the Beast” dogma.

If the Bush tax cuts for the rich are renewed, they will add an additional $3.4 trillion to the national debt over the next 10 years. One progressive pundit summed up the situation very well, “Bush Tax Cuts or Lower Deficits, pick one, you can’t have both.”

There are many myths being deliberately perpetuated by right wing propaganda to push for permanent passage of the Bush tax cuts for the rich, but the fact is they will only balloon deficits and not help Main Street America one iota.

Ezra Klein has offered a few pragmatic solutions for Democrats in this battle, but the new found arrogance of the Republicans has demonstrated that they are not willing to compromise on anything, much less their resistance to decoupling (keeping the tax cuts for anyone with an income under $250,000 per year and letting them expire for the rich). That leaves Obama and the Democrats only 2 options: fight back or surrender.

There has never been a better time, nor a better issue to highlight the differences in philosophy between progressives and conservatives than this. Bailouts for billionaires is not the answer, and if the Democrats cannot take a stand on this, they are in more serious trouble than most people think.

This scenario in mind, they should let ALL the tax cuts expire on time at the end of the year. If the Republicans don’t want to pass a new bill that makes them permanent for the poor and middle class, they can try to explain that to American voters. If Obama surrenders this issue after having given up so many other pieces of reform, he will surrender the support of his strongest supporters. This is one of those watershed moments.


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10 Responses to Obama: On the Brink Of Losing Progressive Support Forever

  1. Gilbert Mercier
    +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Gilbert Mercier
    November 19, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    The damage is done, I think Obama has already lost the progressives and greens. It is time for progressives and greens to get behind a candidate with the balls to deliver.

    What America needed in 2008 was a new FDR, and what we got instead was a Bill Clinton 3rd term. With Obama, over and over again, the actions never match the discourse.

    Take Afghanistan for example, when Obama decided to escalate the conflict by adding 30,000 troops and by increasing the drone attacks exponentially in Pakistan, he also said that US troops would start withdrawing in 2011. Now, once again, he has broken a commitment, and we are told that the deadline has been pushed to 2014. Same thing on addressing the critical issue of climate change.

    Now the question is: Will progressives and greens form a tight alliance on some very clear policy platform, and either start a 3RD party with some real hope to win elections or will they get behind somebody like Alan Grayson? Grayson has a real progressive agenda: opposition to the endless wars, supporting the poor & the middle-class, doing something real on climate change etc, and also has the balls to fight for it.

    • +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Ole Ole Olson
      November 19, 2010 at 4:56 pm

      I think progressives and greens can probably continue to be part of the Democratic umbrella for the time being, but they need to stop supporting groups like the DCCC that give money and support to conservative Democrats who work for the Republicans. We need to draw a sharper contrast between those seeking to implement change and reform, and the sellouts and only support the former.

      Part of this will be to use the senatorial filibuster to shut down any notion of ultra-conservative corporate expansions of the M-I complex, and to band progressives together in the House to say NO to any rollback to the days of segregation.

      What irks me the most is that many libertarians and socialists alike have been telling me for more than 2 years that Obama would turn out being like he is, and I didn’t believe it, until recently. I’m 99% certain he will cave on this issue and extend tax cuts for the rich, which is the final straw for me.

      • +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Dorothy Butler
        November 19, 2010 at 5:46 pm

        I agree

      • +4 Vote -1 Vote +1Anomaly100
        November 19, 2010 at 5:48 pm

        I feel the same way. I want President Obama to fight for us. That’s what we saw in him. That’s what we want to *still* see in him.

      • Gilbert Mercier
        +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Gilbert Mercier
        November 19, 2010 at 7:21 pm

        Sorry about your disappointment, but on this one I belong to the “I told you so” category from the get go. Obama is the new (smarter) CEO of America Empire Inc. He is not the game changer some people were expecting. Trust me he will cave in on tax cut for the rich, just like he caved in on Guantanamo, Afghanistan, the Middle-East peace process, the Supreme Court ruling which lost them the elections etc.

    • Vote -1 Vote +1bigtime
      November 20, 2010 at 5:18 am

      Wow, the CDS is strong in you . Did you even look at the national debt chat above or do you not know anything at all about recent history? The information above helps prove Obama is the third term of Bush or at the very least a Republican pretending to be a progressive. FYI Alan Grayson is batsh*t crazy and another Republican. Which I am pretty sure is the opposite of progressive.

  2. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1sarah jones
    November 20, 2010 at 9:48 am

    Great job and I share the feelings expressed here, but here are my thoughts re the legislative end of this. The Republicans are refusing to sign off on extending tax cuts for the middle class unless the Democrats also extend the cuts for the wealthy. We didn’t have the votes before the election and they sure as heck do not have them now. Tax cuts can not be achieved by unilateral exec order which is now the basis – thanks to the 2010 elections– of democratic power in the legislative process. Am I missing something? We lost our 60 vote when Scott Brown took the MA seat. We need a Republican to sign on and given the blue dog coalition, more than one.

    If we really wanted the rich to pay their fair share (and I do), we need to address tax code law because the rich don’t pay their fair share of their lower tax rate, let alone any return to pre-unpaid for tax cuts ala Bush. Warren Buffet proved this with his infamous return in which he did not try to hide money or seek shelters, but still ended up paying less than his secretary in taxes.

    If we want tax cuts extended for the middle class (98 percent of us), it looks like we have to play ball with these clowns who care naught for the deficit and in a recession, it would be nice for the middle class to get this break. Nothing pains me more than the reality of having to share power with people who do not care about governing or their claims to be fiscal conservatives when they are nothing but neo-con hacks hiding a pro-corp agenda beneath flag pins and the bible. How do we fight these people? We have two years of nothing but crap coming our way.

    • +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Ole Ole Olson
      November 20, 2010 at 11:36 am

      I think we play hard ball with them. Take a few political risks by standing up for issues like this, then let the GOP take the heat by not passing middle class tax cuts. This is trench warfare at this point imho, and we’d better start firebombing back, or we’re doomed.

      • Gilbert Mercier
        +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Gilbert Mercier
        November 20, 2010 at 12:45 pm

        I think the time for the left in America to have a real political representation is now, and it is long overdue. Two years is what progressives and greens have to organize, define a platform and push viable candidates for local, state and national elections. It should be trench warfare, or if you want to use a more loaded but more accurate term: class warfare. Who knows, may be George Soros will be in an exceptionally generous mood to help finance the effort.

  3. Vote -1 Vote +1Elli Davis
    November 21, 2010 at 11:45 am

    If Dems do not endure and do what is right on tax cuts, it will be recollected in next two years. People should be more careful what they wish for on this one, in this economy. Like it or not, raising taxes on the so called wealthy may cost more than you get back ! Employers will have not other choices.

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