Wednesday, December 8, 2010

"Chicken Crap" vs Tax the Rich

             With strong public support and Democratic majorities during the lame duck session, it might seem that Congressional action on a permanent tax cut for middle class American families and 95% of small businesses earning less than $250,000 would be a no-brainer – but that has not been the case.    

            Finally showing some independence from the White House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi led the Democratic majority to the Floor and without anyone saying so, challenged President Obama to ‘walk his talk’  The successful House amendment (234 – 188) shrewdly included wealthier taxpayers on their first $250,000 of income.  After the vote, incoming House Speaker John Boehner, with his knickers caught in a snit fit, called the vote ‘chicken crap.”

             As a result of the House vote, the more conservative Democratic Senate was pressured to act in a rare Saturday morning debate.  Two amendments were offered. The first by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Montana) was identical to the House language and was defeated 53 – 36 with 4 Democrats (Senators  Feingold (Wisc), Nelson (Neb), Webb (Va.) and Manchin (W.Va) and Lieberman (I-Conn)) voting against the middle class tax cuts.   

            A ‘compromise’ amendment offered by Sen . Chuck Schumer (NY) raised the limit to earners of $1 million.  The Schumer amendment failed 53 – 37 with 4 Democrats (Senators Feingold (Wisc), Rockefeller (W.Va), Harkin (Iowa), Durbin (Ill) and Leiberman I-Conn) all voting No.  

            Watching CSpan coverage of the Senate debate, it seemed curious that Sen. Baucus,  Darth Vader of last year’s health care debate, offered the lead amendment and that Sen. Kent Conrad (N.D.), who supports the Deficit Commission recommendations, joined Baucus in voting for both amendments since neither are known for a compassionate nature when it comes to the country’s working families.     

            As the debate and roll call continued, it was puzzling why high profile liberal Senators who have built careers supporting working class values would vote against these amendments.  None have yet come forward with any plausible explanation that I am aware of.  

            But consider this hypothetical - if those five Senators had voted with their Democratic base, the Baucus vote could have been 58 – 31 and the Schumer vote might have been 58 – 32 (Standing Rules of the Senate requires 60 votes on this type of amendment.) If the Democrats had garnered 58 votes instead of 53, would there have been more pressure on the two Maine Senators and Sen. Scott Brown (Mass) to come along.   If the vote had been 58 in favor of extending middle class tax cuts, would it have been more difficult for Sens. Snowe, Collins and Brown to justify their No votes?
            On the other hand, why would Republicans consider voting for extension of the tax cuts knowing they would ultimately get a better deal with the President’s negotiator?
            All this is not to ignore Republican hypocrisy but here’s the real question is with numbers from the Center for Responsive Politics:  with 261 Millionaires (54 in the Senate and 207 in the House - out of 535 members) in Congress including the President of the United States, is it realistic to expect those who would benefit from the wealthy tax cut, those 55 members with incomes over $10 million and 8 members with incomes over $100 million, those Members with a median income of $765,000 in the House and $2.3 M in the Senate, those with a clear and personal conflict, to vote against their own self interest?

            Apparently genetically incapable of delivering on campaign promises, Obama single handedly demoralized the Democratic base weeks earlier indicating he was open to compromise with Republicans. Never using his bully pulpit to turn the tide, the President boxed himself in to a stalemate of his own making and then used that stalemate to justify continuation of Bush tax policies.

            It has been suggested that since making laws has been unfavorably compared to making sausage as a messy business, it would be better not to watch either.   It would not be the first time that a dysfunctional Senate and Obama Administration have been snookered by Republicans in a less than dazzling public display of discombobulated legislative wizardry.

            Come to think of it…making sausage is whole lot more appealing.


Anonymous said...

Good thoughts

LInda said...

I agree that Obama and the crazy Senators have been snookered time and time again. But sometimes it seems like they are complicit in the snookering. Obama in particular, seems only too willing to give away the store before any fight. In any case, in this situation, I think Democrats should go along with this, since this is the absolute best that they will get for the next two years.

Richard said...

OMG. Finally inteligent insight
Thanks Renee, keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Our country, that in the past at least tried to be "of the people, by the people and for the people," is now dangerously close to being "of the wealthy, by the wealthy and for the wealthy." We are very far down a very slippery slope.

refuge42 said...

Renee was a city councilor here in Durango Colorado. She was a bit of a firebrand and we came to count on her to throw wrenches into the otherwise smooth operations of city government. Her role became as honesty broker, and she's playing it again here. I'm glad to see she's started a blog and has a forum from which to challenge the democrats, who claim they are progressive then play "gaga" politics ('go along / get along'), which is just a pastel version of propping up the status quo. Now the Democratic caucus has met and resoundingly shouted down the Obama administration. What's their BIG fix , nothing's really changed but they added ethanol credits! This is their idea OF A FIX!
Big hint - this is just class warfare writ large.

True Blue Progressive said...

not sure if i'm a firebrand altho it may be in this political climate that anyone who challenges the status quo, ie Sen. Sanders filibuster on Friday, may be viewed as firebrand ...if so i guess that puts me in good company.

Rep. Jerry Nadler made the point this am that the one time, one year 2% payroll tax deduction will be paid for by $120 B from the genl fund ..
for the first time in history of Social Security involving the genl fund as subsidizing Social Security now makes SS vulnerable to deficit hawks who want to cut the program...
sounds like something a Republican President might do