THE BLOG
12/06/2010 01:16 pm ET Updated Jul 05, 2011

Can the President Count?

Update 6:50pm EST: President announces new "framework agreement" with hodgepodge of goodies for all. Assails critics. McCain tweets "I applaud the framework agreement."

Go figure.
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After a week or two of negotiating with himself over tax cuts to the wealthy, Mr. Obama has played his hand. All signs point toward a "compromise" whereby Mr. Obama has agreed to cut taxes for the rich in return for an extension of unemployment benefits. Unlike Senator McConnell and Mr. Boehner who drew a line and the sand and didn't budge, the President never put a marker down. Signaling his continued willingness to embrace bipartisanship bludgeoning, Mr. Obama stutters at saying No.

Less one think that the President has capitulated on a bulwark of his fiscal agenda, bite your tongue momentarily. The President is not writing a $700 billion check for the rich while simply expecting lesser souls to just eat cake. The Administration will spin the latest deal with Republicans as a trade-off: cutting taxes for the rich was unavoidable but -- and here's the clincher -- the President manned up and demanded that the long term unemployed be spared another three months' of misery. Moreover, these now-flush unemployed will presumably boost the economy as they dash to Wal-Mart to purchase Christmas presents for their families. Only Mr. Obama's benevolent deal making could make that possible.

The President's attempt to masquerade as Robin Hood in a Red Herring costume is a cynical farce. Extending jobless benefits for three months will cost taxpayers $8 billion, whereas the temporary tax cuts for the rich will cost $700 billion. That's some deal: $700 billion shoveled to the rich in return for $8 billion sprinkled to the unemployed. It is the sort of trade that makes Wall Street salivate.

Coupling extended unemployment benefits with reduced taxes as a compromise is not only a false construction, it is a terrible deal for middle class and poor Americans. When the GOP affirms its control of Congress in January the axes will come out. Negotiations over extension of the debt ceiling will likely be the flash point at which lines in the sand are drawn again- and why the President didn't bundle an extension of that limit within this deal is inexplicable? I'd expect that prime immediate targets for budget cutting to pay for Mr. Obama's $700 billion deal will include Medicaid, Social Security, education, housing assistance and funding for job-generating infrastructure initiatives. Those cuts will have long-term, chronic effects on the economic, educational, physical and emotional well being of the unemployed, poor and middle class most endangered by a recession which is not going away. The deal Mr. Obama has cut is a classic wealth transfer: $700 billion to the rich from the hides of the other 98% of Americans.

As terms of the deal broke, the wealthy Republican doing a little holiday shopping at Tiffany's said, "deal me in. Obama really can't count."

No, he can't.