In defense of the egregiously unacceptable deal President Obama is trying to strike with the elitist Congressional Republicans (and a few short-sighted Democrats), he claims he is "doing what's right for the American people, for jobs and for economic growth."
Mr. President, you are way off.
There are some desirable pieces to the deal – extension of the Bush tax cuts for the middle class, the child, earned income and small business tax credits, reprieve for millions of out-of-work Americans with 13-month extension of unemployment benefits, and even in a shorter-term, stimulative sense, the one-year reduction of the payroll tax by 2% (more below).
But, this compromise is still by and large an extension of the status quo, the postponement of pain, and a wasted opportunity, at best.
They're doing it all in exchange for more tax breaks for the economically well-to-do, who don't need the breaks. The deal includes 2-year extension of the top-tier income tax breaks and the historically low capital gains and dividend tax rates passed by Little Bush, as well as a slashing of the estate tax to an 80-year low. That's a hell of a giveaway to a mere 2 percent of taxpayers – folks whose wealth and success depend not only on the buying power of working America, but also on the structures and services funded by taxes.
Back to that 2% cut to the payroll tax – because this tax is only levied on the first $106,800 of one's salary (an extremely regressive cap), an individual making $106,800 per year in wages pays the same amount in payroll taxes as one making millions per year in wages. Design problems with the payroll tax aside, at least middle- and low-income folks would have more cash in hand to spark demand in the short-term. But, that's made so by weakening the future positions of two important safety nets for American seniors: social security and medicare.
This compromise – or sellout of the American majority, rather – continues to pay undue credence to ineffective trickle-down economic strategies. We've pretty well established over the past several decades that continually higher tax breaks for the rich don't create more jobs. (There's more money to be made with those tax breaks in the Wall Street casino, in property ownership or in offshore tax havens.)
Also, as Robert Reich put it, this deal "makes a mockery of deficit reduction." (Do we need a reminder of what Republicans purport to be their top priority?) And, this focus on immediate relief is distracting us from what's waiting at the end of this debate's dark tunnel: billions of dollars in lost revenue.
With that comes those public sector wage freezes, job cuts all the way from the federal to the state and local levels, and reduced funding for public services at a time when they're most needed. Those cuts will hit middle- and working-class taxpayers the hardest, the very people President Obama claims he is trying to protect.
Unless we want to witness the further erosion of our middle class, and yet growing division between America's rich and poor, we must take action to stop the Obama-Republican tax compromise.
Read AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka's statement in sharp opposition to this lopsided deal.
Watch this spot-on speech by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and see if that does the trick: