I must say, as ballast to my applause burst for Obama's press conference defending his tax deal, that there is something false in the way he's framed the choice that faced him - in his statement last night, in his press conference today, and his message to supporters cut for OFA. His claim is that Democrats did not have the votes to break a Republican filibuster against sunsetting the tax cuts for the wealthiest, and that the only alternative to cutting a deal was to let taxes go up for tens of millions of Americans.
That is probably not true. Democrats have felt betrayed because it has seemed clear that if Obama had made it plain to Democrats in Congress that he would not countenance extending all the cuts, and if he had promised publicly to veto any bill that extended the cuts for the top two percent, that he would have prevailed -- and that if a standoff did ensue and all the cuts had sunset, a deal would have been struck about ten minutes into the next Congressional session. His "I had no alternative" plea does not ring true.
The real question, I think, is this. If you told Obama in, say, July or September, that he could have his way with the tax cuts, full stop -- or extend them for two years while extracting from the Republicans 13 months of unemployment benefit extension, a payroll tax cut, extension of his stimulus tax cuts for tuition and the earned income credit, and accelerated equipment investment writeoffs for businesses, which would he have chosen? A clean tax cut victory with basically no further stimulus to the still-sputtering economy, or hundreds of billions in relatively efficient stimulus at the price of $100 billion plus in inefficient stimulus?
I suspect that he did choose. Earlier than the current political narratives would have us think.
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