So as not to pinch Jonathan Bernstein’s naming convention as well as his idea, I’ll call my version of this feature CoD (or Haddock, or similar fish). Any baffled Americans who don’t recognise the reference in the title, google Red Dwarf.
So for this one (technically, this is from yesterday) I’m tapping Ezra Klein’s notes on how conservative BHO really is on tax and other fiscal matters. Go look at his graphs and such, but the core take-aways are these:
The initial budget plan released in December 2010 by former Republican senator Alan Simpson and former Democratic White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles, if passed today, would raise taxes by more than $2.6 trillion over the next 10 years. The new Simpson-Bowles proposal, released earlier this week, would raise taxes by barely half that. […] Bowles partly blames Obama for the shifting of the center on taxes. “I think it is fair to say if you go back and look at what was said after we came out with the original Simpson-Bowles plan, the White House and the president hit us up pretty hard for two things: They said we had too much revenue and too much defense cuts,” he says. “And being far out front of the president on revenues wasn’t something I wanted to do again.”
So Simpson and Bowles are blaming Obama for moderating them; it’s not exactly as though they were hard-left radicals anyway.
But part of the difference between the trillions in new revenues envisioned by the major bipartisan commissions and the more modest sums endorsed by the Obama administration dates back to a pledge Obama took during the 2008 campaign, to resist any tax increases on Americans making less than $250,000.
And this is symptom of a more general sanity problem in US politics. Even to a successful American with President Obama’s history, from inside the Washington bubble $250,000 seems to be considered middle class. It isn’t. The President tied himself to a position that is unsustainable; it’s plausible to promise tax protection for people earning under, say, $120kpa and still raise the revenues Klein calculates as necessary. It won’t be plausible to do so while protecting those earning $121-250kpa. And the President has tied himself to a promise which pushes the whole debate to the right.
As Ezra says:
the Republican position is that taxes shouldn’t be raised on anybody, and the Democratic position is that taxes shouldn’t be raised on almost anybody.
This is a dramatic change in negotiating postures, says Bob Greenstein, President of the liberal Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. “Many people forget that when the Reagan tax cuts turned out to lose far too much revenue, the leader in scaling back the revenue loss in 1982 was Bob Dole, a Republican! It’s as though with each iteration of the debate the contours sort of shift a bit further to the right in terms of revenue.”