Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Go Get 'Em, Slugger!

Two interesting posts at on Obama's deal to extend Bush-era tax cuts for the rich.

One, by Steve Kornacki, "Actually, it's a pretty good deal," is gleeful.
And it's also worth remembering that there's a clear disconnect between the loudest voices on the left -- the ones that have been branding Obama a sellout -- and rank-and-file Democratic voters, who still approve of the president's job performance at a rate of about 80 percent. Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan weren't doing that well with their own bases at this same point in their presidencies.
It's true that Democrats continue to approve Obama's job performance at a rate of about 80 percent; funny that it wasn't enough to stave off those losses in November. I'm not sure where Kornacki got that bit about "rank-and-file Democratic voters," which sounds like he's talking about Democrats other than the professional leftists and whining losers -- including such typically rank-and-file Democratic constituencies as labor -- who weren't so wild about the way the country was going in the weeks before the midterm elections, and were finding it difficult to motivate themselves to get out the vote. Much of what Kornacki calls "the left" is rank-and-file Democrats, in other words -- it sure as hell isn't Republicans.

The second piece, by Gene Lyons, titled "Obama Bought Himself Precious Time," is reasonable enough. Lyons, another party loyalist, stresses (as Kornacki does) that Obama basically traded the extension of the tax cuts for the extension of unemployment benefits.
The Party of No was forced to say yes. From a Tea Party perspective, GOP leaders agreed to increase the budget deficit purely for the sake of multimillionaire tax cuts. How much clearer can things get?
The Tea Party is already pissed off at the GOP leadership, which is why they ran their candidates against mainstream GOP incumbents; that's not news. Of course, from a left perspective, Democratic leaders also agreed to increase the deficit for the sake of multimillionaire tax cuts.

The trouble I see is that there's no reason to believe that the economy will improve enough to do the unemployed any good, and the tax cuts aren't going to help -- rather the opposite; tax cuts do not stimulate the economy, so Obama's compromise has the worst of both worlds, increasing the deficit while depressing the economy. The question is whether the positive elements of the deal will be able to improve the economy enough to offset the depressing elements. As Lyons says, Obama bought himself time, but I don't expect him to use that time constructively -- it will be a career first for him if he does. Since most Americans are less concerned about the deficit than they are about the economy and unemployment, Obama and the Democrats really need to do something about the economy and unemployment and worry less about the deficit.

Lyons terminally annoyed me, though, with this bit:
Maybe it's because I'm lucky enough to have a decent job, and maybe because I never envisioned Obama as a political messiah to begin with, but an awful lot of this commentary strikes me as overwrought. Or maybe it's because I'm a sports fan and tend to see politics more as a game than a theatrical melodrama on themes of good versus evil.
Sports similes usually get my back up; allow me to quote myself here.
Let me see if I can put this clearly. Sport is not politics; politics is not sport. Setting up proper health care for ordinary citizens matters a great deal -- it is, in fact, a life-and-death matter, unlike who wins the Superbowl or today's IU-OSU football game, which doesn't matter at all. Not in the slightest. And the worst thing about organized sport, even worse than the amounts of money wasted on Albert Speer stadiums and the like, is that it is intended to teach people from childhood that winning a game is as important as feeding the poor or preventing war. And it works -- that's why Americans spend their free time following sports instead of attending to what their government is doing.
But there's the problem for Lyons's view: many Americans see games as very important, indeed as cosmic melodramas of good versus evil. Which doesn't mean that I think that one should indulge in overwrought rhetoric, as Obama did during the recent campaign. That's just Lyons the party loyalist, taking up the anti-left talking points of his leadership. I don't think that politics is a theatrical melodrama on themes of good and evil either, but it is serious in a way that no game can be. Unemployment is at Great Depression-level highs in this country right now, for example, even though corporate profits have metastatized under Obama. Does Lyons want to tell the unemployed that their situation is just a play in a game? I don't think the reason is that he's got a "decent job," because I also have a decent job and I still take the plight of the unemployed seriously. Nor did I ever view Obama as "a political messiah." (Here Lyons is using the Dem talking point of jeering at those who were "disappointed" because Obama didn't bring world peace in 48 hours.)

Maybe there's a third way of looking at things, as there usually is. Something like this, quoting Obama's latest press conference:
WHAT SOME WOULD HAVE PREFERRED: “Now, I know there are some who would have preferred a protracted political fight, even if it had meant higher taxes for all Americans, even if it had meant an end to unemployment insurance for those who are desperately looking for work.” The assumption here is that he would have lost the fight. It’s pretty much always Obama’s working assumption that he will lose any fight. And then, funnily enough, he does.
Or, as Avedon said at Sideshow:

It's not that "the left" doesn't praise your policies, it's that you keep passing policies nobody likes. You're all lies and no fight. (Isn't it amazing how he can never push things any farther left than way out to the far right?). We would have loved it if you'd at least compromised on health care, Mr. Petulant, but you didn't - you just gave the store away, and now you want to give away the rest of the block - and then dismiss objections to destroying the lives of 98% of the country as a fight for "an abstract ideal". It's not an "abstract ideal", you little creep, it's our country and our families and our lives. It's food on our tables and a home to live in and getting the heat up above freezing in the winter and preventing your children from dying unnecessary deaths. It's honest work for honest pay versus begging and bowing and slavery. A roof over your head and food in your belly are not "an abstract ideal", you putz. Don't ask me to thank you.

This also answers Gene Lyons: a roof over your head and food in your belly is not a game either, except maybe to comfortable people who have decent jobs and they're all right Jack, they've got theirs. And maybe, sometimes, politics is a theatrical melodrama on themes of good versus evil -- except that in the two-party system as presently constituted, what we've got is evil collaborating with evil. The fact that one side is the bad guy doesn't mean that the other side is the good guy.