Michael Meeropol, writing from the left at The Nation, argues that Obama did well in the tax cut deal.
I’m finding myself in a strange position for a progressive economist. I’m pleasantly surprised at how much he (and therefore the people of this country) has gained in exchange for what many were calling an abject surrender. After all, he got Republicans to agree to an extension of unemployment insurance, a payroll tax holiday and (amazingly) an expansion of the earned income tax credit (EITC). Remember what that program does: if you are a low-income worker and you don’t make enough to pay income tax, you actually get a check from the government. The right wing has consistently attacked the EITC as a welfare entitlement and yet there they were, agreeing to its expansion.
Yes, he says:
the part of the deal that extends the Bush income tax cuts for the top 2 percent of the population, and cuts the estate tax permanently, is just plain bad … However, Republicans had made clear that they were willing to letall tax cuts expire and refuse to do anything meaningful to help the unemployed unless millionaires got an extension of the Bush tax cuts. So the choice for the president was to let all the tax cuts expire and fail to get unemployment benefits extended or to do something that would preserve some of what most economists believe the economy needs: that is, extending unemployment benefits for the next thirteen months, the cut in payroll taxes and expansion of the earned income tax credit.
But note that “next 13 months.” Krugman thinks there’s poison in the pill that awaits us. See Krugman Looks to the Future | Notes from The Pondonome
And yet, speaking of the future, I really like Meeropol’s closing:
If we on the left want Obama and the Democrats to strongly back a progressive agenda, we have to make them do it. … Instead of complaining about Obama we ought to be working our tails off to build a real movement that will ultimately force him and a recalcitrant Congress to do the right thing.
I recall an anecdote from my teenage years, from Reader’s Digest. A man and his son arrived at the train station just as the train was pulling away. “Let’s run for it,” said the father. The boy said, “Aw, it’s too late. We’re gonna miss it.”
“Maybe,” said the father, “but let’s miss it trying.”