A divided Congress (David Brown and B. J. Samuels)
President Obama reluctantly conceded to the rich in order to help the working class and the masses of unemployed.
By Yussuf J. Simmonds
Sentinel Managing Editor
There is quite a difference between campaigning and governing; and in order to govern–represent all the people–it is necessary to compromise. In deciding to negotiate with the Republicans while keeping his campaign promise and making sure that the nation’s unemployed gets a fair shake, President Obama has put forth a package of tax legislation that he believes will benefit those who need it the most. He said, “It’s by no means perfect, and as with any compromise, everybody had to live with elements they didn’t like. But this is a good deal for the American people.” And one of his predecessors, former President Bill Clinton, agreed.
The legislation he put forth the would provide a two-year reprieve in the tax increases scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1 at all income levels, reduce Social Security taxes for every wage earner in 2011 and extend an expiring program of jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed. At press time, the Senate had passed the President’s tax package and it was heading to the House (of Representatives). And though it is the White House’s position that it will eventually pass, it faces an uphill battle in the House. Many from the President’s own party, are displeased with the package.
Prior to it passing in the Senate, the President had been overly optimistic and he was indeed not disappointed. He had previously said, “I am pleased to announce that the United States Senate is moving forward on a package of tax cuts that has strong bipartisan support. This proves that both parties can in fact work together to grow our economy and look out for the American people. He also said, “I’ve been talking with several members of that body. I recognize that folks on both sides of the political spectrum are unhappy with certain parts of the package, and I understand those concerns. I share some of them. But that’s the nature of compromise — sacrificing something that each of us cares about to move forward on what matters to all of us. Right now, that’s growing the economy and creating jobs. And nearly every economist agrees that that is what this package will do.
What must also be considered is, the President fully understands that come January when the new (Republican) House takes over, it would be much more difficult, if not nearly impossible, to get much of what he wants. So at this crucial moment, time was running out and it was a take-it-or-leave-it proposition/compromise even though, he knew that he would face strong criticism from fellow Democrats. The President made passage of the bill a key year-end priority, calling it “essential for the economy” as the economy struggles to recover from the worst recession in decades.
In addition, President Obama calculated that the Senate vote, at present, was almost a sure thing; the total was well above the filibuster-proof 60 needed for the legislation to advance. And though nine Democrats and five Republicans voted to block the bill, the White House senior advisor, David Axelrod, speaking on national television last Sunday, predicted that it would pass in the Senate. Previously, the Vice President had met with the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) to elicit its support for the bill.
That meeting was held prior to the Senate vote, and the chair, Representative Barbara Lee, said “During the meeting, I informed Vice President Biden that the overwhelming majority of Congressional Black Caucus members are opposed to the current tax plan. We will have a specific proposal we would like to discuss with the administration. Congressman Bobby Scott and our taskforce are putting this together.
“We are opposed to the estate tax provision and extending the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent of Americans. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus support extending unemployment benefits and provisions to create jobs, and we want to support something responsible.”
In essence, CBC seemed to imply that they understood what the President was saying but were not thrilled with what he did, and what he referred to as “sanctimonious” critics as he made an impassioned case for compromise, adding, “A long political fight that carried over into next year might have been good politics, but it would be a bad deal for the economy and it would be a bad deal for the American people,” especially the unemployed. “To my Democratic friends,” he pleaded, “what I’d suggest is, let’s make sure that we understand this is a long game.”
In Rep. Lee’s statement on behalf of CBC, she said, “We understand there are tough choices that will need to be made next year and are extremely concerned that the cuts that could be made should this package pass will disproportionately hurt the poor and low-income communities, and may further erode the safety net.”
Foremost in the President’s mind in making the compromise during private talks between the White House and top leaders in Congress, was the results of the recent midterm elections where the Republicans emerged with significantly increased strength. Nowithstanding, “Every economist I’ve talked to,” President Obama concluded,” suggests that this will help economic growth and this will help job growth over the next several months. And that is the main criteria by which I made this decision.”