Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Dear Liberals: Please Step Back From the "Cliff"

Late New Year's Day congress passed a deal to avert the so-called "fiscal-cliff" that has had everyone crapping their pants with angst for the past month.  As these "deals" often go, no one got everything that they wanted.  Republicans were forced to raise taxes on rich folks, committing a cardinal sin against their great Gods of Limbaugh and Norquist, while President Obama was forced to settle for less in taxes than he originally wanted.  Needless to say, the Magic-Pony Progressives among us immediately took to Twitter, Facebook, airwaves, and blogs to claim that Obama "caved" once again to Republicans, with most of them starting their rantings before even reading the actual deal.

Here are a couple of the more important points of the fiscal-cliff deal as outlined on Ezra Klein's WonkBlog by Suzy Khimm (not in the order that they appear in the blog).

  • Tax rates will permanently rise to Clinton-era levels for families with income above $450,000 and individuals above $400,000. All income below the threshold will permanently be taxed at Bush-era rates.
  • The 2009 expansion of tax breaks for low-income Americans: the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, and the American Opportunity Tax Credit will be extended for five years.
  • The Alternative Minimum Tax will be permanently patched to avoid raising taxes on the middle-class.
  • Federal unemployment insurance will be extended for another year, benefiting those unemployed for longer than 26 weeks. This $30 billion provision won’t be offset.
  • A nine-month farm bill fix will be attached to the deal, Sen. Debbie Stabenow told reporters, averting the newly dubbed milk cliff
  • Scheduled cuts to doctors under Medicare would be avoided for a year through spending cuts that haven’t been specified.
  • The sequester will be delayed for two months. Half of the delay will be offset by discretionary cuts, split between defense and non-defense. The other half will be offset by revenue raised by the voluntary transfer of traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs, which would tax retirement savings when they’re moved over.
  • The estate tax will be set at 40 percent with a $5 million exemption. That threshold will be indexed to inflation, as a concession to Republicans and some Democrats in rural areas like Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mt.).
  • The deal will not address the debt-ceiling, and the payroll tax holiday will be allowed to expire.

So.  Do the rich get higher taxes?  Yes.  Do the unemployed continue to get needed income?  Yes.  Will the economy totally tank?  No.  Did Obama give away too much to get all of this?  Legitimately debatable.  But here's something that is often lost on "hair on fire" emos who seem to think that Washington is Hogwarts, and the President has a magic wand that can cast a hypnosis spell on members of congress to get what he wants.  Most working class folks don't spend their days glued to every word coming out of the cable news chattering class.  They don't spend 24-7 engrossing themselves in the sausage-making that goes on in DC.  These people don't really care whether the cap on the Bush tax-cuts is $250k or $400k when their salaries are between $25k and $40k.  They're not going to spend time bitching about the estate tax when they're trying to keep ownership of the real-estate they have, assuming they have any at all.  And they're far less concerned with the debt-ceiling than they are with keeping a real one over their heads.  These folks are concerned with keeping the lights on and food on the table, and as long as that continues they don't give a rat's fart about presidential "leverage". 

Once again folks on our side act like spoiled little brats at Christmas time who get almost everything they want, but spend the entire day bitching about the magic pony they didn't get.  Teabaggers were downright ecstatic when John Boehner got 98% of what he wanted in last year's debt-ceiling fight (at least until they realized what that 98% was).  Obama got about 90% of what he wanted this time around, and the Magic-Pony Progressives among us will probably spend the next 4 years bitching about that 10% he didn't get.  My question to them is this.  Are you folks who claim that you're so for the poor and working class really about doing what's right for them, or are you just trying to win an argument with your bat-crap crazy conservative in-laws?  Are you more worried about the unemployed losing their income, or the president "losing" leverage?  And will this be the excuse you use to "teach Obama a lesson" by not voting like you did in 2010 (and, by the way, how's that working our for you)?

We already have one party that see the poor and middle class as "collateral damage" in their efforts to get what they want.  We really don't need two.

Washington - Your Fiscal Cliff Deal Cheat Sheet:

Business Insider - Fiscal Cliff: Full Text: American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012: