December 7, 2010

Notes on the tax deal

Sam Smith - Some things to keep in mind when considering the Obama tax negotiations:

- The Democrats' real defeat - perhaps the worst of the whole Obama administration - was the party's failure to change the filibuster rules when they took over in 2009. This whole story could have been vastly different if Harry Reid hadn't been such a wimp.

- That almost forgotten document, the Constitution, gives the power to write laws and assess taxes to Congress, not the President. The President can obviously help, but the final deal is up to members of Congress. The media and presidents often act as though this is no longer true. A CNN reporter even described Obama's role in the tax negotiations as that of "Commander in Chief." But the game isn't over until it's over.

- When a crime is committed, there are two tasks: the first - and most important - is to help the victim; the second is to catch the perp. Obama has clearly done a lousy job in handling this matter, but anger over that should not endanger things like the extension of unemployment benefits.We can always deal with Obama later.

- The issue is how can Americans be best helped, not how can liberal members of Congress best display their virtue. For example, dumping unemployment benefits in the trash, or even at risk, is not a pretty way of showing off your integrity.

- As Time has calculated, Obama actually came out slightly ahead in this matter - by about $85 billion or a 25% gain on all matters negotiated. This doesn't mean that the whole issue was handled well - it wasn't - but a 25% advantage on a bad deal does soften the blow somewhat.

- Perhaps the most dangerous thing about this whole affair, as Mark Thompson has noted, is that the changes will expire in two years, or just in time to be a matter of major debate in the next presidential campaign. Given how the Democrats have handled matters so far, that's not good news.

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