The Tax Compromise

Greg Sargent has an interesting observation about yesterday and today's political developments: Obama's strategy going forward will be to position himself as Washington's lone resident adult in a town full of squabbling children on right and left … Obama was as visibly frustrated and angry as he's perhaps ever been in public, and some folks are pointing out on Twitter that he seems more angry with the left than he is with Republicans. In fairness to Obama, though, he directed harsher rhetoric at Republicans, implicitly comparing them to hostage takers at one point … Wow. He compared the Republicans to hostage takers but was even more mad with the Democrats? If I really believed that Obama were the lone adult in a town full of squabbling children in both camps, I might like him more. But part of being an adult means demonstrating leadership. The compromise was made for the sake of compromise, for the sake of resolving a dispute that was raised strictly for the purposes of raising a dispute. After all, the part of the deal that Obama got in return was a 13-month extension of unemployment benefits. We can argue about whether that was a good idea or not. But the result is lower taxes and more spending, which is just what both parties really wanted all along. All the angst about Obama betraying his base, about the Republicans putting one over on him, is silly — this is what everyone in the Statist Party really wanted. Remember, it's spending, not revenue, that is driving the deficit. The lower taxes aggravate the situation, but the deal delays entitlement reform for more than a year, and without looking at entitlement reform, no substantive deal can be made about spending. The reality of what we get with this deal is more of the same from big-government budget-busting Democrats compromising with big-government budget-busting Republicans about how the big government is going to bust its budget. So while I like the face of the strategy of Obama being the adult who understands that compromise is a part of governance (yes, it is) the compromise this deal represents isn't much of a compromise at all. I'm unimpressed with everyone involved. This is pretty much what Congress would have done left to its own devices anyway. Which makes sense — we don't have a President providing leadership through this fiscal crisis, we have a Prime Minister.

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