I truly do not understand “Progressives”

I have been observing with interest the beating that the President has been taking lately from the left, and I truly do not understand it.  His sins relate to the “tax deal” which I understand to be a complete capitulation to the Republicans on every significant issue, and killing Social Security to boot.


The most interesting thing to me has been the focus on the payroll tax cut: it has, among other things, given Ryan a nasty headache.

But what does it do, really?  It cuts 2% off payroll taxes for a period of one year, which means that the Social Security System will be deprived of approximately $120 billion.

But, I am reliably informed by progressive Democrats that this $120 billion is the very life essence of the Social Security system, which will surely wither and die without it.  This is a rather significant and abrupt change in the health of the Social Security system, which was in super-duper shape just weeks ago.  

Then, the Simpson/Bowles commission pointed out that the Social Security system is nearly insolvent, and will soon fail to collect enough to pay current benefits.  “Lies!” it was shouted; the Social Security Trust Fund exists to fund the shortfall and will keep the system solvent for decades.  The fact that the Trust Fund lent all of the money to the government, which spent it, is no matter.

Fast forward to today:  The “rock-solid,” solvent Trust Fund is to be deprived of $120 billion in cash receipts.  But, that is not all.  Instead of cash receipts, the Trust Fund will receive bonds in an amount equal to the payroll taxes not collected.

So:  if there had been no payroll tax cut, the Social Security system would have collected the $120 billion, and used it to purchase $120 billion in federal debt instruments.  Rock solid and solvent.

With the payroll tax cut, the Social Security system doesn’t collect the $120 billion, but gets $120 billion in federal debt instruments, which is precisely the position it would have been in anyway.  Catastrophe!

All this does is demonstrate that the payroll tax actually does go into the general budget.  Thus, at its essence, the payroll tax portion of the tax deal was an income tax break focused on the lower tax brackets, which I previously understood to be a Democratic party goal.

In addition to this tax break on the lower brackets, Obama received (i) a whole bunch of other, minor, “stimulus” items (Read the table of contents of the bill here); (ii) the repeal of DADT, which, if it didn’t happen right now, would not have happened in the next Congress, and likely would have been delayed for years; and (iii) ratification of the START treaty, which had dubious prospects at best in the next Senate.

In return for all this he gave up (i) a tax hike on the higher tax brackets; and (ii) an increase in the estate tax.

Oh, and as a side benefit:  Had the tax cuts expired on December 31, everyone would have noticed that their first paycheck in January is a few hundred dollars light.  How intense do you think the political pressure would have been to pass the extension then?  Imagine our honorable Democratic Senators, filibustering the extension in order to ensure that the rich pay more taxes.  Back in reality, the tax cuts would have been extended on Republican terms 30 seconds into the new Congress.

So, to review:  Obama achieved a tax cut targeted at the lower income tax brackets, a moderate stimulus package, repeal of DADT, ratification of START.  He gave up some tax provisions that were going to happen in about two weeks anyway.  Oh, and by the way, he got a health care reform that has eluded Democrats for nearly nine decades.

Republicans got the extension that they would have gotten anyway, and lost the ability to CRUCIFY Congressional Democrats in January over the extension.

And for all this, Obama has been savaged by progressives.  Vice President Palin would be preferable!  

Progressives may like to think that they live in the reality based community, but they are pretty GD delusional all the same.

 

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  1. Progressives

    I have been observing with interest the beating that the President has been taking lately from the left, and I truly do not understand it.

    One major amendment to your post -- you seem to imply that "progressives" have been beating up on Obama. In reality, it is only a sliver of the Democratic base that has "savaged" the President.

    Obama still receives high approval ratings from self-described liberals, as well as from African-Americans and most groups that are generally considered key parts of the Democratic "base".

    The Glenn Greenwald types may get the publicity, but they certainly do not represent "progressives" at large. I know this doesn't address the substance of your post, but it's an important point to make.

  2. You have to be in a special place

    in order to understand the ire that is generated by Obama and his leadership.  You have to be one who is on the receiving end of the all the bullsh*t that trickles down under the guise that these policies are in the center and good for everyone.  If you aren't there, or if you don't have a family member who is there, then you would not understand.

    But to be clear, the ire did not start with Obama.  This fuming rage has been boiling up since 2004 when George Bush won his second term.  It was after that the cost of living went through the roof with no relief in the form of wage increases or additional tax cuts for the middle class. It was during this time that the threat to privatize Social Security became more real.  It was during this time that the housing bubble created a mad rush to buy for the fear that average American's would never be able to buy if they waited much longer.

    When Obama was elected there was a sense of relief that fairness would come back to the livelihoods of the working middle class.  Whether or not Obama has any control over it is debatable, and it's been debated over and over again. However, the policies he has allowed to fall into place have not done enough to change the lives of people who are on the receiving end of all the bullsh*t.  Foreclosures continue, prices on basic needs still going up, healthcare costs going up, unemployment still an issue, wages still stagnant, regressive state and local taxes have gone up.

    Apparently, Obama is powerless.  So be it.

    And yup, to tell you the truth, I'm pretty excited about the payroll tax cut.  It's going to be nice to have that extra money.  But in my experience in the last 10 years or so, what is given will be taken away.  This tax cut will quickly be eaten up by more increases in state and local taxes and fees, cost of living inflation, and who knows what else is coming down the road.  If the tax package had been more responsible, by perhaps raising the rates on millionares and billionaires, and raising the capital gains and dividend rate to 20%, I would be less worried about it. But that didn't happen. It should have happened. It could have happened, except for the fact that Obama is powerless.

  3. There is a difference between health reform and the tax cut deal

    It's a difference I have tried as best I can to spell out, between the compromise Obama made on tax cuts with the ones he made on health insurance reform. Let's get one thing straight: I am a huge defender of President Obama. I really think he has done a very good job sofar, given the problems he inherited.

    But let me just touch on this tax cut deal. Repealing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest was a key promise in 2008. This money could go towards paying for any number of programs or projects to help build our infrastructure, grow our economy for the long term, prepare for foreign threats, or protect our social safety net. In fact, Obama said in 2008, that these economic policy's "offended" his conscience.

    What's more, Obama's key opponent -- Boehner -- specifically said that if he were forced to extend the tax cuts for 98% but not the top 2%, he would be OK with that. On top of all that, many economists would be forced to agree that the stimulitive effects of tax cuts pale in comparison to the stimulitive effects of desperately needed infrastructure improvements (building schools, bridges, levees, dams, wind turbines, solar panels... that sort of thing). And he failed to block unemployment benefits many times already.

    So, as the wealthy get wealthier and the poor get poorer, we're choosing a route that isn't forced upon us, that isn't as stimulative as infrastructure improvements, that further helps the top 2%...in exchange for unemployment benefits and other tax credits we probably could have gotten anyway.

    The few people, like Bernie Sanders, who point this out are marginalized and told that we should get on board not just by Obama, but Bill Clinton, too. Obama had no problem bringing out the big guns to fight against progressive disgruntlement, but didn't quite seem to think that was appropriate when fighting for, say, the Dream Act.

    Obama seems to give in too easily, and should not compromise just to get something done. His view seems to be, "We have to do something. This is something. Therefore, we should do it." Even if he can get more than just something.

  4. General question...

    ...which may be only indirectly related to this diary.  Why does all the discussion about how the President would have to settle for worse once the GOP takes control of the House seem to forget that the House GOP will have to learn to play ball with the still Democratic Senate, and the President can veto anything that reaches his desk that he doesn't like?

    • Well, for one thing

      Why do they have to play ball on anything? They haven't yet. Their goal isn't to pass legislation, it's to kill it. That's why they're even blocking benefits to 9/11 first responders. I mean, are you KIDDING me? The party of "noun, verb and 9/11" since 2001 is blocking benefits to first responders? No, I'd say they they aren't going to learn to play ball.

      If you look at the last couple of victories Obama has had, they are in large part due to factors that won't be there when congress switches hands. Talke DADT repeal. Steny Hoyer some advocates say saved DADT repeal on a number of occasions when it could have failed. Hoyer can't do that next year to nearly the same extent. Take START. The treaty is a victory out of necessity. The Russian government said that the Senate cannot change the bill otherwise they'll walk, and it was more a common sense bill than a political one, to be honest. The fact that Republicans challenged it at all was idiotic -- and proved that they'll filibuster anything reflexively if it means hurting Obama. Instead of quietly passing a treaty that must occur, they gave Obama a big win with 11 non-insane Republicans joining on. I've already talked about the tax deal. And the Dream Act failed, despite Harry Reid needing to give a big thank-you to the latino community that just got him re-elected.

      The problem with the new Congress is that even the no-brainer stuff like benefits for first responders or START will be even harder to pass. For any bill to pass it has to be mindnumbingly obvious that it must do so, nevermind a decent bill you have to make a case for.

      • But I was talking about pushback the other way

        If the GOP House wants to accomplish its initiatives they WILL have to play ball.  As the majority they can't just be the party of no anymore.  Say they wanted to extend all tax cuts, or say they wanted to try again to privatize Social Security.  Do they think THEY will have a better job getting 60 votes if necessary in the Senate when they don't even control it on paper?  Do they think they can get a 2/3 vote in both chambers to override a presidential veto?  The GOP will now be less in control of the government next month than the Democrats have been for the past two years so its obvious to me they will have an even harder time pushing their agenda.  Obama may have a harder time doing anything positive, but that veto pen is still quite the bludgeon on the negative side.

        • Rose-colored glasses

          Say they wanted to extend all tax cuts...

          Did their being the minority in both houses prevent that this year? Why would being the majority in the House make it any more difficult?

          ...or say they wanted to try again to privatize Social Security.

          Please see some of the articles about the makeup and proposals of the Presidential Catfood Deficit Commission.

          The GOP will now be less in control of the government next month than the Democrats have been for the past two years so its obvious to me they will have an even harder time pushing their agenda.

          Again - how does their having a majority position that they did not have for the past two years make it harder for them to push their agenda?

          • What am I missing?

            If the Senate Democrats vote no on a House GOP proposal it gets blocked.  They don't even have to play procedural games like the GOP did to get that result.

            If it does manage to get through a Democratic Senate and Obama still doesn't like it, he vetoes and probably game over as I assume there will not be the votes to override.

            The GOP did not push their agenda this year except in the lame duck session with the President caving early.  They simply blocked ours - big difference.

            • What you are missing

              If the Senate Democrats vote no on a House GOP proposal it gets blocked.

              Did the Senate block the tax-cuts-for-the-rich "compromise" we just witnessed? Did Obama veto it? Did either the Democratic Senate or the Democratic House block the renewal of the Patriot Act? Did Obama veto that?

              • Maybe not, but it COULD happen

                ...and IMO it should.  Clinton went through a period when people wondered where his spine was, but the GOP must have helped him find it because he vetoed their budgets and won politically.  Maybe it's the President who forgot that he can veto when he was so eager to make the tax compromise.

        • I think that the GOP would LOVE to have played ball

          on the tax issue.  Honestly, I can't understand why they let that opportunity go.

          Just think about how it would have played out, without this deal.  January 1 is a Saturday, so for much of the working population, payday is Jan 6 or 7.  The economy is lousy, and everyone, everywhere is struggling right now.

          So, when these people open their paycheck, they get a horrible, unpleasant shock: the check is for a lot less money than last week's paycheck.

          How much is a lot?

          For a single person making just $40,000 a year, nearly $40 each week, or around $160 a month.

          For a single person making $80,000 a year, $72 each week, or $289 a month.

          For a married couple making $80,000 a year, $110 each week, or $440 every month.

          For a married couple making $160,000 a year-- pretty much the entire suburban middle class segment of the electorate--$175 each week, or $700 a month.

          $700/month is a lot of money for folks struggling to keep up with the mortgage.

          That would be an extremely painful bite for the entire electorate, and there would immediately be intense political pressure to undo it.  And riding to the rescue would be your Republican Congress, who would have passed an extension already, if not for the Democratic opposition.  How many paychecks do you think would go by before Democrats cave?  Over/under is: 1.  At that point, Democrats would have alienated their foot-stamping base AND the entire middle of the electorate.

          Republicans should have been licking their chops at the prospect of putting Democrats in this awful position.  It would have been an opportunity to completely wreck them on the very first day of the new Congress.  Now, if the Republicans want to play brinkmanship, they are left only with the debt ceiling, which would be a Clinton v. Gingrich replay, with the Republicans again playing the reckless, scary, and crazy role.

          The entire "progressive" argument here is that the electorate is seething with resentment that the higher tax brackets don't pay more taxes, which doesn't seem to be remotely true.

          • Furthermore

            It seems that some Republicans are a bit cheesed off at the loss of opportunity.

            See: Lindsay Graham

          • middle class makes $160,000 household income?

            On what planet? $160k would put you in the top 5%

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H...

            • Well, sheesh

              First, that chart measures "households."  I referred to married couples filing jointly.  Of course a household consisting of a single person earning $160,000 would be doing just great, but then that single person wouldn't be married, filing jointly.

              Second, that chart measures the entire United States, as if a dollar in Alabama is the same as a dollar in San Francisco, California, or New York.  That is a distortion.

              In Massachusetts, that income puts you somewhere in the fourth quintile, particularly if the family chooses to live where jobs that pay that much actually exist.

              In reality, that makes two college graduates with mid-level professional jobs.  With student loans, kids that will go to college, daycare, and a mortgage, and a simple life/disability insurance, that family is treading water at that level, and would be creamed by a sudden tax hike of that magnitude.

              Even if the family has, in essence, two administrative level positions earning $40K apiece, and earns around $80K collectively, you are talking about an instant hit of $400 a month, or $4800 each year.  That is a lot of dough.

              How do you think that this would play, politically, in suburban New York City (New York, New Jersey, Connecticut), Philadelphia (Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey), Washington (Maryland, Virginia), Chicago (Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana), and in the various California cities?  Do you think, after looking at the Democrats that survived last month, that suburban voters in those states are important in any way to Democrats in the new Congress?

              PS.  I have noted before that people in this range are often the "struggling middle class" before the election and "the rich who can afford more taxes" after the election.  This latest round of "progressive" lamentation appears to be no exception.

          • You didn't happen to notice

            that those figures didn't take into account deductions or exemptions?

          • I would have taken that bait.

            There is enough of an argument economically that letting them all expire is better for the deficit than letting none expire is stimulitive, it seems.  We DID propose extension on the first 250K only and the GOP voted no, so we could have pointed fingers that way too.  The upper bracket isn't about resenting the rich; it's about bad economic policy.  I would have been tempted to just say fine, we tried and YOU (the GOP) actually voted against a tax cut for struggling Americans when you had the chance.  I guess this just comes back to bad messaging and a potentially spineless president, which unfortunately the evidence of experience suggests is quite likely.

          • You think nobody would have noticed,

            opening their shrunken paycheck, that Republicans were staging an epic blockade of Obama's preferred tax plan? I think, at the very least, that the blame game could have gone either way, and I think most Americans favor the $250,000 tax returning to pre-Bush levels. The funniest thing for me about the GOP's position, is what happened to all the grave concern about the deficit when the discussion shifted to raising taxes on the relatively rich. Where do you stand on the deficit, CMD? Just a slash-and-burn everything but defense kind of guy, or a no-big-dealer?  

            • No, I think they would have killed Democrats

              Personally, I think that that the taxes should go up AND there should be significant--to domestic and defense spending, including entitlements-- spending cuts.  I predicted two things about two months ago: (i) that Republican's concern about the deficit would evaporate; and (ii) Democrats would suddenly re-discover that the deficit isn't meaningless after all, but a crucial issue.

              As for the present state of play, I don't think anyone would blame a huge, painful tax hike on the Republicans, who are not noted for advocating huge painful tax hikes.

              In this Congress, it is a hypothetical issue, and only  the tiny portion of the people who listen to the never-ending stream of blather emanating from Washington even notice that it is an issue.  Somewhere in the first few days of January, every working person in the country would have noticed, and would have been extremely PO'd.  And what would they find?

              They would find that the Republican majority instantly advanced an extension of the cuts, but the extension blocked by Democratic filibuster or veto.

              You seem to think that, under these circumstances, it would have been a great Democratic strategy to explain to huge numbers of angry people that they need to cough up a few hundred bucks a month in order to defend the sacred principle that the rich should get a tax hike.  I cannot imagine a more politically suicidal position than that, because there is only a tiny fragment of the electorate that is angry that rich people aren't paying more in taxes.

              • In what world is 40% (or more) a tiny fraction

                Really, CMD, no wonder you are confused.

                It is becoming painful.

                • Well, duh

                  That was taken in November, not next month.  And the question wasn't: do you support reducing your paycheck by several hundred dollars a month in order to ensure that the rich pay more taxes?  which means that it misses the point.

                  The public might as well have supported free pickles and ice cream for everyone. But the public doesn't get to pick the tax rate.  There weren't the votes, and there would not have been the votes in January.

                  And in January, the remaining Democrats would have had to hold the line notwithstanding the huge tax hit that 3/4 of the country is unprepared for.  I'm thinking that they would cave before the new Congress actually even convenes, and in return for nothing at all.  And then you would be grousing about that; doubtless that would have been Obama's fault too.

  5. Economic Issues ...

    We have made great progress on issues during this Congress and the first two years of the Obama Presidency. But we will not win back Congress (and we endanger the President's re-election) unless we take aggressive action to bring down unemployment and give middle class and working class Americans hope for financial security in the future.

    The tax law signed into law this month is barely stimulative (what will Rupert Murdoch and George Soros do with their $2000). It extends existing tax rates and the payroll tax cut replaces a more progressive set of tax credits. It will not do anything to bring down the historically high unemployment rates. In fact, the inability to get a budget passed for the fiscal year opens up working families to assault from Republican bdget cutters which will undo the little stimulus that the bill offers.

    Ignoring these issues will make it that much harder to win in 2012. SALT, DADT, Financial Reform and Healthcare are major steps forward. Unfortunately, they do not put food on the table in the short run and people do have the right to make judgements on that basis.

  6. As a progressive

    I couldn't agree more.  Republicans are trying to make Obama look weak, and the "disillusioned progressives" are doing nothing but help them.  I have never heard more whining and complaining.

    I spent 4 months on the road working to get our president elected, and while I am not happy with him on everything, there is no question that he has delivered more for our country then Bill Clinton did in 8 years, and that he has done so in the midst of the great recession, 2 wars and facing the most uncivilized opposition party in the western world.

    Obama works firmly in the realm of the possible and delivers the most he can.  If you don't like those reforms go out there and organize so that we can expand the realm of the possible.  Sitting on the sidelines shrinks the realm of what is possible, the mid-term elections are a clear example of that.

    • Well, Clinton had fewer Americans killed or wrongfully imprisoned

      No one can blame Obama for the recession (and it's tough to even get consensus you can hold the gov't responsible for the business cycle).  However, after 2 years, Obama owns the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he certainly owns the wars in Yemen and Pakistan.

    • bless you

      I couldn't agree more.  Republicans are trying to make Obama look weak, and the "disillusioned progressives" are doing nothing but help them.  I have never heard more whining and complaining.

      Me either.

  7. Republican rank and file living in dreamland

    In addition to all of the excellent reasons noted above, there is a powerful big picture reason to be disappointed in Obama: he is continuing, even accelerating, the unfortunate transformation of this country from an advancing middle-class based society into a declining highly stratified one. As noted, he was elected in part because of promises that might have reversed or at least slowed that change.

    Under present trends, there will be fewer opportunities for our children than at present, a stagnant or declining standard of living and, perhaps ultimately, increased social unrest with a consequent further diminution in opportunities, not to mention much suffering. Republican policies -- and Obama's policies, to the extent he follows Republican advice -- helped to set this change in motion under Reagan and continue or accelerate it today.

    Most galling for anyone who travels outside this country -- especially, for example, to the European Union or to many countries in Asia -- is how quickly this country is falling behind; how much better many things are overseas, from health care to cell phones to Internet access; and the shrinking areas in which we remain the best in the world. We should be a leader across the board, not an increasing distant follower. An important reason we are increasingly the latter is bad government. American character, after all, can't be beat.

    Republican policies, and many of Obama's policies, are excellent over the short term (1-5 years) if one is wealthy, although over the long term (20-50 years?) everyone will likely suffer consequences from poor decisions made today.

  8. One Progressive's Explanation

    I'm not sure there's much to add to Bob's comment. He may have written the book on Obama, but he clearly hasn't drank the Kool Aid. Some folks, like Charley, think we shouldn't openly or vociferously (you decide) oppose the President, lest we somehow harm his tenure or candidacy. His anger with those of us to his left is readily apparent in his sarcasm. GreenestState thinks we should get off the sidelines and organize and stop whining. Not sure what that means since many of us are do more than post and comment on BMG. Many here at BMG are activists; many of us work on campaigns; many are part of the Democratic Party structure at the local and state level; some of us hold elected office. CentralMassDad, an avowed centrist, just doesn't understand us: "Obama has been savaged by progressives.... Progressives may like to think that they live in the reality based community, but they are pretty GD (gosh darned) delusional all the same." Why the reaction? Let's start with disappointment in his leadership, political savvy, and strategy. The Left has a right to be disappointed. They worked hard to elect Obama; many were fooled into believing Obama was a Progressive. He was an inspiring candidate. He's been an uninspiring leader. Results, of course, matter, but so does leadership. We need a leader to rally the troops, channel our feelings, educate the public; Obama did this as a candidate, not as President. After his political (mis)handling of health insurance reform, which drained the legislation of its political advantage for Democrats, he lost a lot of respect for his political skills. That was complicated by his and Robert Gibbs very public scolding about his base. That's bad intraparty politics. Instead of feeling our pain, as Clinton would have done in this case, Obama told the Left to suck it up. Only a political idiot intentionally alienates his base. Finally, much of the Left thinks that this tax deal puts the Democrats in a worse position for the next election. If you don't want much, I guess there's no reason to be disappointed with Obama. Finally, in politics, people who are unhappy with the status quote criticize those who they believe responsible for perpetrating the status quo. That's how people try to get what they want. That's politics. We didn't get marriage equality in this state by accepting the fact that voting in favor of it might harm the election chances of some reps. We pushed. We sent letters that provided political cover to the less inclined. We fought people in our own party. I wrote a post on what I thought the brouhaha between Congress and the President meant. I changed the title, which, I'm afraid, may have prevented it from being front-paged.

    • I like the changed title

      And just promoted it, Mark.

      CMD -- note that -- no doubt unintentionally -- you caricature progressive arguments in your post. Paul Krugman, to cite one progressive, did not believe that the tax deal was a "complete capitulation to the Republicans on every significant issue" even though he did criticize it. I wonder what progressive did?

      This may go some way to explaining your befuddlement.

  9. Payroll tax

    First, some perspective on Social Security. Progressives think -- right or wrong -- that Conservatives want to eliminate Social Security as an insurance program and shift it to Wall Street. That is in the back of everyone's minds.

    Next, the Debt Commission is supposed to look at the debt. But Social Security isn't currently in debt. They looked at it anyway, and most of the "suggestions" centered on it. That seems fishy, especially when coupled with the idea that Conservatives are looking for a reason to eliminate Social Security as an insurance program and shift it to Wall Street.

    I don't think you're characterizing the state of Social Security properly when you say "the Simpson/Bowles commission pointed out that the Social Security system is nearly insolvent". That just isn't true. The current system, if untouched, would run a surplus until about 2018. It currently buys US Treasury Bonds with that surplus, and has for years. Starting in 2018, it would no longer run a surplus. It would have to start redeeming those bonds. By about 2045, it would no longer have any bonds to redeem, though it would still operate in a reduced manner based on the payroll taxes it collects.

    How is that "nearly insolvent"? Social Security is probably in better shape than 99.9% of individuals and companies in this country. Are you suggesting that the US Government will not pay back the US Treasury Bonds owed to the Social Security Trust fund in 2018? How can it legally do that but continue to pay back other US Treasury Bonds to other bondholders?

    The answer is there are people creating this myth to make the public turn on Social Security. They want us to think that the system is hopelessly broken so that we throw it out instead of trying to fix it.

    Now let's get to the payroll tax reduction. A one-year reduction in the payroll tax isn't a big deal in the grand scheme of things. However, the political reality is that there will be little stomach to restore that reduction in a year because Republicans will scream about "raising taxes" and in reality, people's paychecks will get smaller. More likely is that this reduction will be kicked down the road indefinitely, which means that a chunk of Social Security's revenues will have been eliminated. It will stop running a surplus sooner, and will have to redeem the US Treasury Bonds sooner. So in the long run, this payroll tax cut will weaken Social Security more quickly.

    I don't think anyone is suggesting that Social Security is in perfect health. Clearly, if it will use up its accumulated savings by 2045, then something must be done. However, the problem can be solved right now by enacting relatively mild remedies. For example, eliminating the cap on earnings that are taxed to contribute to the system would extend the program farther into the future. (I think we can all agree that there is a finite horizon which we should be worried about, so if we can ensure Social Security funding for another 75 years, that's as much as we realistically need to do for now.)

    Conservatives don't want that, though. Instead, they want to raise the retirement age. They also want to change the way annual adjustments are calculated, with the end result being smaller COLAs for retirees. They also talk about means-testing the payments, a plan that seems designed to weaken support for the program in general, because if you're paying for a program that you don't get anything back from, of course you're going to want to "take your money" and use it yourself. So that's why so many progressives are mad, because Obama is agreeing to chip away at the foundation of Social Security at a time when people are actively working to kill it. He's doing the work of the Republicans.

    He is also embracing a key philosophical point of Republicans, that tax cuts solve all ills. Bad economy? Cut taxes. Good economy? Cut taxes. Stagnant economy? Cut taxes. There are times to cut taxes, but I don't see this as being one of them. I think that the way our economy is structured, with so much trade imbalance, that cutting taxes is going to just result in more goods being bought from China. I don't think it will help our employment situation one bit.

    As a progressive, I am basically ticked off at Obama because he appears to have adopted the a position to the right of center as the starting point in negotiations. He then moved even more rightward. I won't use the hostage metaphor; I'll use something else that conservatives are more familiar with: unions. Imagine, at the start of union negotiations with a particularly hostile union, that the CEO of the company you own shares in said "As a sign of good faith, we promise that we absolutely will not lock out the employees, no matter what".

    Would you respect that as a "show of bipartisanship", or would you say "fire the CEO and get a new negotiator"?

    I think that Obama should have played chicken a little longer. I think he should have put Republicans in the Senate in a position to take an active stand against tax cuts for 99% of the population. If January came and paychecks started shrinking, he would simply have to say "I am willing to sign a bill to reduce taxes on all taxpayers earning under $250,000, but Republicans voted against that bill". Let the Republicans do the explaining about how they are really in favor of cutting taxes, it's just that they will only agree if tax cuts for millionaires are included. I am also really disgusted that Obama gave them the estate tax because that tax is low-impact and inheritance of large estates is the opposite of the meritocracy that this country is supposed to be.

    To be clear, I don't think that we should tax the rich because I'm mad at or hate the rich. I would have actually paid higher taxes if the taxes on the wealthy were allowed to expire. I truly believe that our tax system guides our economy via incentives on individuals and companies, and that allowing high-income individuals and companies to take more profit with less taxes gives them less incentive to invest in this country. I believe that these excess profits (remember, business investment is an expense) are being used to either speculate (think: housing bubble, commodities, bubble, etc.) or to build infrastructure in countries that are competing against US workers. I think we are going in the wrong direction here, that government can be used to strengthen our country, and simply due to an ideological hatred of government, conservatives are hell-bent on destroying it.

    I think that the Republican vision of society is aristocratic in nature, meaning that people who are either very skilled or are lucky enough to be born to the right parents should be the ones who succeed, and that everyone else should just stay in their place. I think that vision is the very opposite of the people who founded this nation on democracy and meritocracy.

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Wed 26 Nov 11:12 AM