Anyone who believes the Democrats, at least, got a 13 month extension of unemployment and other benefits for the middle class in the second bailout for the wealthy bill should think again.
It is more like 2 months. Unless a rise in the debt ceiling beyond the 2012 elections is part of the package.
Republican strategy has worked even better than the pundits and liberals believe. They have their second $700 billion bailout for the wealthy neatly tucked away. And, while they were at it, they also took care of the dead (and wealthy). For Republicans, dead-and-wealthy trumps alive-and-middle class.
Ostensibly, all this is in exchange for a 13-month extension of benefits for the unemployed, a 2% one-year reduction in payroll taxes, an extension of the earned-income tax credit and a few other little goodies.
Just wait until February. Suddenly, as we approach the debt ceiling, we will not be able to afford any of those. And, of course, the second $700 billion bailout for the wealthy will exacerbate that shortfall.
The Republican House will then axe them all. And, then some. It will be quick, sharp, and deep.
Then, the blackmail will begin again. As the debt ceiling approaches, so that the full faith and credit of the United States will risk becoming junk bond quality, the Senate and President will be forced to accept the changes in order to have the debt ceiling raised.
Gone will be all unemployment compensation. Gone will be the earned income tax credit. Gone will be all unspent money from the stimulus bill. Gone will be the 2% reduction in the payroll taxes. Gone will be money for any part of the health care reform bill. Gone will be the funding for the Environmental Protection Agency (unless it reclassifies carbon dioxide as a non-pollutant). Gone will be enough funding for the key regulatory agencies like the Bureau of Mines, the Food and Drug Administration, the Consumer Financial Products Commission, to do adequate jobs. Gone will be the key funding projects of the Department of Education. Gone will be any clean energy initiatives from the Department of Energy.
Last night I saw a very angry President. Angry that the Republicans could be so despicable, so disgusting, so dastardly, to risk the lives and well-being of 2 million unemployed and their families to get a second $700 billion bailout for the wealthy. Although I remain critical of the entire process that got us there, I saw the President seething.
I did not see a President who was happy with what his prized bipartisanship had wrought.
But, if anyone believes the President was emasculated by the threat of cutting off unemployment insurance to 2+ million needy people, wait until the entire full faith and credit of the United States is dangled as the cost of cooperation.
They did it before under Newtie and the boys. They lost. But, they think they lost because they did not carry through on their threats.
Moreover, we know the Republicans' priorities: bailouts for the wealthy, whether living or dead. Use this moment, and that opportunity, to avoid disaster in February.
So, Mr. President, Speaker Pelosi and Leader Reid: do not bring to a vote ANY package that does not have a substantial rise in the debt ceiling as part of it. Design it to take us beyond the 2012 elections.
I am as sympathetic as anyone to the plight of the unemployed. If I could believe they really would be helped for 13 months, and other benefits would not be gutted in February, I could, in the end, swallow my disappointment in how this entire situation was handled and accept the trade-off.
Come February, they will be gone. Like the wind. Without a trace.