Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Deal, or, A Failure of Imagination

If you size up the tax cuts Republicans wanted, and you size up the tax cuts President Obama wanted, the deal struck some time Monday night or during the day on Tuesday looks like a pretty good deal. Short of expanding the EITC or Child Tax Credit, a payroll tax cut is the most progressive way to cut taxes right now. Extending the unemployment benefits for over a year is crucial given the state of hiring, and with a little luck it may be long enough that hiring will have picked up by the next time they come due. The electorate in Presidential years is more amenable toward raising taxes, and Obama will have more opportunity to control the terms of debate. Really, if Democrats can extract any concessions they want in exchange for cutting the estate tax, they should take that deal every time.

But Barack Obama campaigned against "the smallness of our current politics". He talked about the failure of the country to envision a government capable of doing big things. And he has now delivered us a debate between two governing parties that doesn't extend beyond the four corners of a Heritage Foundation whitepaper. The best thing government can deliver to the American people is a tax cut, and the only difference between the two parties is the question of which taxes get cut. I don't know about you, but I would have a hard time waking up in the morning to go work in OEOB if that's all I were there for.

Obviously, we shouldn't overlook the fact that passing health care reform was a Big Fucking Deal that might not have happened under another President. But carbon pricing appears to be dead in the water and no one has any interest in reviving it. Compromise on infrastructure investments seems to be impossible, since apparently it's now Republican orthodoxy that we never put another dollar into rail investments, even if it means a Republican governor turns down free money from the Feds. At the moment we're suffering from a failure to imagine what it is our government is capable of, and no one seems interested in coming up with any good answers.
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