12/20/2010 12:34 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Budget Compromise Deserves the Left's Praise, Not Scorn

The budget compromise President Obama worked out with Republicans is not something many on the left fully agree with. Let's face it, tax breaks for the rich will do very little to hire more Americans or fix our economy (and adds hundreds of billions to the deficit). A permanent extension of the Bush tax cuts would have been a disaster. However, extra money for tax cuts for lower and middle income Americans will be spent and help stimulate the economy. Also it is imperative that the millions the recession has kept unemployed continue to receive benefits.

The Tea Party inspired Republican sweep also has put Washington in a tax cutting not spending mood and the Republicans in the Senate would have vetoed any tax bill that did not include the tax cuts for the rich. So what was the President to do? He clearly believes that it was important to preserve the middle class tax cuts and did not want them all to expire and it would have been political suicide to do so. So he made a deal and got a lot out of it. First, the Bush tax cuts will only be extended for two years. Hopefully by then the economy will be improving and the Republicans will no longer be able to argue that you cannot raise taxes in the middle of the recession. Also, there will be more evidence on how the lower taxes for the rich did little to help the economy. Also, it was the only way to get unemployment compensation extended. Also, a cut in Social Security tax also benefits mostly lower and middle income Americans. Finally, President Obama can point to this as how he reached across party lines when the Republicans want to paint him as an extremist.

Yes, we on the left can be disappointed that policies we do not like are continued even for another day, but the political realities were against us. One can only wonder what the newly empowered Republicans would have done next year to push regressive policies. Now they cannot attack a deal they agree to. A lesson of this is that we need to better communicate our message. It appears the President sees this and will focus on this over the next two years so the tax cuts for the rich do not become permanent.

I believe that stimulus spending to create jobs directly is the best way to resuscitate the economy and we are already seeing evidence the Obama stimulus worked. However, there is little likelihood of a second stimulus now so putting more money in the hands of Americans that needed it was a necessity. In doing so, President Obama had to compromise but we got a lot of what we wanted so we need to rally behind him.

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