Progressives and liberal Democrats are blowing hot air on President Obama's tax cut deal. They include saber rattling of a Senate filibuster, screams for everyone from defeated Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold to Hillary Clinton to challenge Obama in the Democratic primary, polls on left blogs and websites running heavily against him seeking re-election, and mountains of sworn promises that progressives will not spend a second of time working for Obama's reelection or contribute a dime to his reelection bid.
This is pure bluster. The political reality that Obama faced and that progressives and liberal Democrats are loathe to admit but must face nonetheless is that Obama had no choice but to hold his nose and make the deal. The reasons were simple. The GOP held all the cards. It's nice to engage in feel good rhetoric about Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, and to say that the president should have used those majorities, and the bully pulpit of the Oval Office to do a Harry Truman and FDR and give the GOP hell as hypocrites, obstructionists, and the party of big wealth. And then defiantly tell the American people why he'd stand tall and veto any tax cut bill that kept the cuts for the rich in there. He would have drawn wild cheers and back-patting from liberals and progressives but come January and beyond when the paychecks of tens of millions of workers shrunk, and tens of thousands of small and medium sized businesses screamed bloody murder about tax hikes, more forced payroll slashes and reduction in equipment buying, and millions of unemployed were hung out to dry with not a nickel of income coming in, guess whose head the wrath of the nation would come down on.
Then there's the reaction of GOP hard liners. They froth at GOP leaders for giving up more than they should have given up on the unemployed and social security benefits that do help far more workers and needy then the tax giveaway to the rich.
The shouts that Obama should just turn the tables on the GOP and dump the blame back on them also ignores too much. He's tried to do that all along and the message has been deliberately and skillfully twisted, ignored, and used to hector him by the GOP echo chamber. The fight that liberal Democrats are screaming that he should have made all along, one could just as easily asked why didn't most of them launch their own national campaign to back Obama and educate their constituents that if the GOP let the rich get their way on taxes after January it was their fault. But they didn't and because of a mix of timidity, fear, and in some cases flat out believe that the GOP was right and the tax cuts for the fat cats weren't a totally bad thing, they dumped the heavy lifting to do this on Obama's shoulders. In other words, many Democrats through cowardice or belief in the phony and totally discredited trickle down line that giving the rich more cash will somehow magically translate into more investment, more jobs, and more economic growth sat on their haunches.
It's odious to give money to those who don't need it, will hoard it, and not create one job, or save one foreclosed home, or help sustain one small business. But it would have been even more odious to watch the GOP noise machine trot out nightly a homeless laid off worker, or family pushed over the edge after losing their child tax or earned income credit weeping on national TV about how Obama (not the GOP which rightly should be fingered) pushed them into the breadlines.
The conventional wisdom from progressive and liberal Democrats is that Obama left himself wide open for the beating he's getting for making the deal with the devil because he promised so long and so vehemently on the campaign trail to nail the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy to the wall and that he lied, or that he's just to weak too do anything but cave to the GOP bullying, badgering and hectoring. That's even more asinine. Candidate Obama could make any promise he wanted including be a tough guy and torpedo the Bush tax cuts for the rich. But presidential candidate Obama didn't face the loss in November of sixty Democratic House seats, seven Senate seats, and a slew of suddenly GOP controlled state legislatures in the must win states of Ohio and Florida in 2012.
Candidate Obama did not face a GOP that will stop at nothing to hack up or do away with any aid to the poor, working class and unemployed, and that has the power to do it. That's called hardnosed realpolitik. This has and always will trump symbolic protests, or unwinnable line in the sand stands. Obama got the best deal he could have gotten given the impossible political odds he faced, and any other Democrat that sat in the same seat he does would have done the same.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He hosts nationally broadcast political affairs radio talk shows on Pacifica and KTYM Radio Los Angeles.