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Posted at 9:25 AM ET, 12/ 8/2010

Tax cuts for rich and poor alike

By Richard Cohen

Today's guest blogger is Anatole France. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature (1921), but he is probably known for the acute observation that, "The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal their bread." If he were to update the line, he would say something about lowering the taxes both for the deserving poor and the undeserving rich and specify that the bridges he had in mind span the lovely Potomac. Liberals will soon be jumping from them.

We are instructed by the editorial boards of both The Washington Post and the New York Times - to name just two - that the deal struck between congressional Republicans and the White House is a necessary one. Few call it good, because it is a compromise and therefore contains elements that are repugnant to one side or the other.

Repugnant to many Republicans is the extension of unemployment benefits for an additional 13 months and a temporary two percent payroll tax holiday. (Happy holiday, everyone!)

Repugnant to many Democrats is the GOP insistence that the tax rates remain where they are, meaning that they Shalt Not Be Raised on the rich, the very rich and the stupendously rich. In addition, should any of these people happen to meet their maker, their estates will be modestly taxed - with up to $7 million for a couple entirely exempt. After that, the top rate is 45 percent.

You will note the faux equality. The middle class gets something; the rich get something. Does the middle class deserve its something? Yes. It not only could use the money, but it will spend and that will help the economy.

Do the rich deserve their something? Well, many of them, and the GOP, think so, but not most Americans nor, I have it on good authority, God in heaven. They already have so much, and the budget is in deficit, and the national debt is growing. Could they manage if the tax rates were restored to what they had once been? They might have to get rid of a horse or two and otherwise struggle, but because they are made of stern stuff -- that's why they are rich in the first place -- they will muddle through.

And what will the rich do with their something? Pocket it, most likely. They will not run out to Target or Sam's Club and in this way help the economy. No, they already have all they need. They will save what they're getting and won't even notice it. I know this because some of my closest friends are rich.

Still, the various editorial boards are right. For the sake of the economy, the deal has to be done. What is amazing, though, is how President Obama, holding the cards of economic logic and moral virtue, managed to be outfoxed by the GOP. What kind of inept politician cannot cow the opposition into backing down from defending the rich and, at the same time, adding almost a $1 trillion to the deficit? I cannot but imagine how Franklin D. Roosevelt or Harry Truman or Lyndon Johnson or John F. Kennedy (gonna skip you, Jimmy Carter) and, especially, Bill Clinton, would have dripped sarcasm on a political party that was so out of touch with the concerns of the American people that it was willing to go to the mat to defend tax breaks for the rich.

I started with Anatole France, but I end, as I must, with the equally quotable Casey Stengel. What he said about the hapless New York Mets applies as well to the White House: "Can't anybody here play this game?"

By Richard Cohen  | December 8, 2010; 9:25 AM ET
Categories:  Cohen  | Tags:  Richard Cohen  
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Comments

I'm almost as disgusted with the editorial boards of both the Washington Post and the NY Times as I am with President Obama. Who says this is "the best deal" or "the only deal"? Does anyone REALLY believe that if the president and Democrats had bills up for vote that capped the cuts at $250,000 that the Republicans would have had the guts to vote "no" and sell that to their Tea Party friends?

Posted by: CardFan | December 8, 2010 9:46 AM | Report abuse

"the deserving poor and the undeserving rich"????? You then make the argument that the rich are undeserving because "They already have so much, and the budget is in deficit, and the national debt is growing".

Liberalism IS a mental illness. The demonization of becoming rich and sucessful is destroying our once great county.

Posted by: kitchendragon50 | December 8, 2010 9:57 AM | Report abuse

The tax deal that Obama engineered proves to the dismay of his "liberal base" that the president may be, after all, that most dreaded of creatures- a capitalist. Keep in mind that liberal millionaires, many of whom "serve" in Congress, are free to donate to the treasury any part of their income that they believe bureaucrats can manage better than they themselves.

Posted by: mhr614 | December 8, 2010 9:58 AM | Report abuse

So the fundamental question that must be asked is, "why are we allowing the government to divide the Country by vilifying people with money?" And the State run media eagerly jumps on the same train. What happened to these champions of equality? They are nothing more that intellectual bigots, he'll bent to "fundamentally change this Country" as they walk in lock step with their jack boots down the path "change."

This Country and it's voters must focus on what is great for the people. Not the Federal government, not the careerists who claim to govern, and certainly not the haters in the media.

Posted by: gmac5 | December 8, 2010 10:07 AM | Report abuse

I'm almost as disgusted with the editorial boards of both the Washington Post and the NY Times as I am with President Obama. Who says this is "the best deal" or "the only deal"? Does anyone REALLY believe that if the president and Democrats had bills up for vote that capped the cuts at $250,000 that the Republicans would have had the guts to vote "no" and sell that to their Tea Party friends?

Posted by: CardFan | December 8, 2010 9:46 AM
*******************************************
CardFan, The House DID vote to cap the cuts at $250,000, and all of the Republicans in the House and Senate DID vote "no." The Senate Republicans also voted "no" to set the cap at $1,000,000. The sad fact is that the Republicans are willing to let the country go down in flames to get their way, probably because they believe that they will own the resources after the fall.

Posted by: WK437 | December 8, 2010 10:10 AM | Report abuse

I'm amused by all this outrage about the "demonization of the rich." Please. Warren Buffett had it exactly right when he said: "The class war is over. Mine won."

Posted by: bcamarda2 | December 8, 2010 10:11 AM | Report abuse

The compromise betrays the fact that no one in Washington, especially in the administration, has any confidence the economy will be materially better in 2012 than it is now.

Semantics aside, if they allowed the tax cuts for the rich to expire, they would need the economy to recover meaningfully for it to pay off politically. Because if the economy is still lethargic in two years, the Republicans would be able to argue the Democrats raised taxes and killed the economy. And that charge would stick.

Obama has already gambled and lost on an economic recovery. He played "check the box" with the stimulus package and pivoted to health care. If the economy recovered, he would be a hero. If it didn't, he would have appeared to not have the same priorities as the voters. The bet didn't pay off and he paid the price in November.

So I can understand him being a little gun-shy over taking a similar bet.

While economists can have debates versus the efficacy of different flavors of tax cuts, no one credibly argues that tax cuts hurt the economy. If the economy recovers, the debate will take a different turn in 2012. If it doesn't, the Democrats are toast and he knows it.

He also knows that he can call the Progressive bluff at will.

Posted by: sold2u | December 8, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Very little pleases Mr. Cohen lately, especially after his friends on the Left lost the election. Now, he and they face a very tough 2 (possibly, 10) years out of power. How the mighty have fallen in just half a presidential term. It reminds me of the quote by Ghandi, "There go my people. Thay are in revolt. I must follow them, for I am their leader". It worked out fairly well for Ghandi. It won't be the same for Mr. Obama.

Posted by: 1republican | December 8, 2010 10:24 AM | Report abuse

Kudos to the President but I am beginning to view the American people in a very negative manner. Yes, the tax cuts for the rich and the rising income inequality can definitely hurt the country; it has been a contributing factor to the decline and fall of several. There is a mountain of evidence but that is the long run. In the short run people and the eonomy are hurting and the President got the best deal he could; in fact; he surprized me. He got more than I thought he could. It will be a tragedy of huge proportions if the Democrats end of playing politics like the Republicans do with American lives and don't vote this through. Our food banks are empty and people are tapped out; our homeless shelters are overflowing; the alternative will be families on the streets and hungry children like we saw in the depression. It won't be pretty.

Posted by: withersb | December 8, 2010 10:30 AM | Report abuse

I am somewhat swayed by those arguments that Obama is a closet republican, but we have to hope not, because Obama is the only game in town for 99% of us...it's sort of like deciding to believe in God and Santa Claus because the alternative is too painful. But, we can hope: we can hope that the populist rage that is building rapidly will by 2012 be a tidal wave that makes the tea party 'rage' look like a tempest in a, well, a teapot. This populist rage will sweep tax cuts for the rich and the lower capital gains rate out of the tax codes. There will be a guillotine set up on the Mall (just as a reminder of how vastly outnumbered the oligarchy is) and no one will dare deny the middle and working classes their due.

Hey, we can dream, that is still free.

Posted by: underhill | December 8, 2010 10:39 AM | Report abuse

This has added to the debt and does not will not create jobs.

Posted by: ohwell1 | December 8, 2010 11:02 AM | Report abuse

Well, Obama is a rich guy after all. As are all politicians. Since it's frowned upon for them to take bribes and kickbacks, they have to stuff their coffers by legal means (for the most part). The easiest way to do that is earn gobs of money and pay fewer taxes on it.

The good news is that the Bush tax cuts were designed, supposedly, to stimulate the economy. So we have that to look foward to.

Posted by: MarkDaniel | December 8, 2010 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Rich and poor. Working class, middle class, wealthy, working families. These words get thrown around as if they had some immutable, indisputable definitions. $200,000, $250,000, $75,000. Who created these lines in the sand that supposedly define the differences among us and frame the debate about taxes?

If you want to debate rich vs. how-about-we-call-it "not rich", fine. If you want to debate who pays too little, too much or just enough, fine. But the numbers being thrown around in the current debate are just arbitrary figures that have somehow gained scientific status. They're numbers that politicians started to throw around when the debate on expiring tax cuts started. Just under $200,000 isn't rich for 1 person but $250,000 for 2 is? Sounds like the worst of the marriage penalty all over again. Maybe the arbitrary nature of the numbers is one of the things that makes people so angry about the proposal to limit extension of the present tax rates.

Let's have a real debate about real numbers, not sound bite ones, and maybe we'll get somewhere with this.

Posted by: toms8 | December 8, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

somebody said:

""Liberalism IS a mental illness. The demonization of becoming rich and sucessful is destroying our once great county.""

the rich are doing awfully well, in case you haven't noticed. They have captured the vast majority of income gains for the last ten years, and the gap in income between the rich and everyone else is wider than its ever been. It is touching that there is so much concern for the wealthy...given that we are terribly concerned for the welfare of the wealthy, if no one else (because ostensibly the wealthy getting wealthier somehow helps the rest of us) then we should try to boost the unwealthy as well, before the general lack of demand in the economy(and remember, demand comes mostly from the great unwashed) seeps up to hurt the wealthy (who largely got wealthy by selling people things). So, if we don't help everybody else, the rich will end up getting hurt. You can't keep making things abroad, and selling them here- eventually unemployment rises, incomes fall, and people quit buying. So if you really want to help the rich, it is a good idea to spread it around a little. Not sure if you can understand this, it requires thinking a few steps down the road and not just stopping at what is in front of your nose.

Posted by: underhill | December 8, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

somebody said:
'''Very little pleases Mr. Cohen lately, especially after his friends on the Left lost the election. Now, he and they face a very tough 2 (possibly, 10) years out of power. '''

if we are making predictions, why not spin it out further? dems could be out of power for 100 years. I remember when W. got appointed in 2000, fartblossom was predicting a 100 year republican reign. So glorious...they ought to be able to really destroy the country handily in a quarter of that time...

Posted by: underhill | December 8, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse

The Compromise:

- cements in the mind of the public that low taxes = high growth, shortly after the government spending = growth model failed.
- It makes the President look weak
- It cedes the moral high ground to the GOP
- It does not add to the deficit. Revenue is a finite number. Spending above that number is what adds to the deficit.

Posted by: katorga | December 8, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

What did the middle or upper classes get from the recent healthcare bill?

Posted by: bobmoses | December 8, 2010 11:38 AM | Report abuse

I'm almost as disgusted with the editorial boards of both the Washington Post and the NY Times as I am with President Obama. Who says this is "the best deal" or "the only deal"? Does anyone REALLY believe that if the president and Democrats had bills up for vote that capped the cuts at $250,000 that the Republicans would have had the guts to vote "no" and sell that to their Tea Party friends?
Posted by: CardFan |
*****************************************************************
Actually, there were bills in both the Senate and House that would have capped the tax breaks at $250 k, then at $1 million. Both passed in the House, but failed in the senate. I believe the votes on both were 53 yea and 37 nay. The mistake the Democrats made, and for this the blame falls mostly on Congress, was not to hold the vote before the election.

Posted by: dfritzin | December 8, 2010 11:38 AM | Report abuse


If you think that preserving the tax rates instead of increasing them is a "tax cut", you might be a leftist WaPo hack shilling for Barry.

Posted by: screwjob23 | December 8, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

The poor didn't get a tax cut because... wait for it... they already don't pay taxes. 46% of American's are NOT getting a tax cut because thier tax liability is ZERO.

Posted by: BradG | December 8, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Come to think of it what do I care? The "rich" cuts in question generate $70 billion per year in revenue. The deficit is $1.3 trillion. We are so deep in the hole it really just doesn't matter.

The government lower taxes as fast as possible and as low as possible to give people a cushion as the government unwinds.

Posted by: katorga | December 8, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

How does he know his rich friends will not spend the money? Did he ask them for a handout? Or maybe that's the question they were responding to when he received their answer that they would be holding onto the excess cash.

Posted by: blasmaic | December 8, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Obama is a millionaire, is he among the "undeserving rich"?

Posted by: spamsux1 | December 8, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

why do liberals loathe the wealthy?

first, cohen goes sputteringly incoherent about "the deserving poor and undeserving rich" then has the audacity to bring up "equality" later on in his screed.

why not call them the "noble poor and the evil rich", mr cohen? because that's really the crux of the matter, isn't it, fomenting jealousy and leveraging guilt to incite full-blown class warfare?

liberals like cohen are all about the "moral virtue" of equality. unless, of course, the subject at hand is a person -- or in this case, a class of people -- the liberal envies to the point of downright hatred.

so, in the fevered brains of righteous liberals like cohen, these hated rich people are not entitled to equal protection under the law.

rather, they are disparaged and discriminated against by small-minded liberal bigots who claim some sort of ethical high ground based upon what? these people's success? productivity? income?

what kind of psychological disorder drives liberals like cohen to attack the rights and privileges of fellow americans based solely upon their financial standing?

and how is that any less despicable than bigotry based upon race, creed or color?

Posted by: sofedup | December 8, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

It is not self-evident that a graduated tax sysrtem is just. All people should be treated alike in all matters.

Posted by: ravitchn | December 8, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Someone said:

"If you think that preserving the tax rates instead of increasing them is a "tax cut", you might be a leftist WaPo hack shilling for Barry."

If you think the current tax structure is sustainable, you must be a far right wing reality-denying tea party tool. What color is the air on your planet?

Posted by: underhill | December 8, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

@blasmaic: "How does he know his rich friends will not spend the money?" Cohen cites a Bloomberg article about a Moody analytics study that indicates the rich will save the money.

Regarding the deficit and the national debt, does anyone remember 1999, when we were on the pathway to paying off the entire debt completely? Alan Greenspan was actually worried about the government going into the black and having money to invest in the stock market! Wouldn't that be a great problem to have now?

We were in that position in 1999 because (a) strict paygo rules were in effect in Congress (not today's paygo lite, which allows all sorts of exceptions), (b) taxes were raised on the rich in 1994, and (c) Clinton actually cut government spending (mostly the peace dividend, but domestic spending also was kept below the inflation rate and so effectively decreased).

We need to return to that 1990s equation. The tech boom helped, but tech investors clearly responded well to all 3 parts of this equation. The Obama-Republican compromise runs away from such a responsible equation and increases the debt by nearly 1 trillion over the next 2 years. That's irresponsible.

Posted by: toddreitzel | December 8, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

More like, : Does anyone here .... "want to buy this team"? .... Nope. True in 1930's Europe too. Especially Germany.

Posted by: deepthroat21 | December 8, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

'We have met the enemy, and he is us.' Pogo

There, Richard. My philosophical retort to Anatole France.

You ask, 'what kind of inept politician cannot cow the opposition into backing down from defending the rich'.
Why should President Obama trust the American voter to know what is at stake or what is contained in the agreement? With a substantial percentage of respondees in numerous polls agreeing that Obama is 1. Not a native-born American, 2. A secret Muslim, 3. A socialist/marxist/communist, 4. The Anti-Christ, why should he have faith that anyone out there is really interested in honest debate and shared sacrifice?

We all agree that the deficit and the debt are very important. Or do we? Is it important enough to reduce spending in our faltering economy at the risk of prolonging the recession? Do we cut the military, SSI and Medicare? Do we leave the tax cuts intact for a few more years or permanently? I don't think the problem is an inept president. The problem is an uninformed, suspicious public who are angry enough to vote against everything but not smart enough to vote for anything. Too lazy to learn and too busy talking to listen. That is why Obama resembles a fish out-of-water. Like the Onion so prophetically headlined in November 2008, 'Black Man Given Worst Job in Country.'

It's not like herding cats, it's like herding jellyfish.

Posted by: wilsonjmichael | December 8, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse


Barry the incompetent boob Obama blamed everyone yesterday: the GOP, his fellow Dims, and even the voters. One Term Barry the arrogant, inept bungler blames everyone but himself for his failed presidency.

Miserable failure Obama


Posted by: screwjob23 | December 8, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Obama needs to go sit on Santa's knee and ask a backbone because he sure hasn't shown us he has one.

Posted by: rjm948 | December 8, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

I am outdone by this "deal" that Obama struck. I have had it with his caving in to a party that is NOT IN THE MAJORITY!! He should have just let the tax rates increase, have the Dems introduce a bill in January to lower the taxes on the Middle class and let the GOP filibuster it--if they dare. He has NO spine and NO political acumen. I will not vote for him again, unless the GOP candidate is Sarah Palin or someone else equally stupid and repugnant.

Posted by: PepperDr | December 8, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

I wonder what our conservative commentators and congressmen, who weep for billionaires, think of the 20% of American children in poverty?

I suppose it is the fault of these children that they were born into economically depressed circumstances with lower quality education, health care, etc.

I know many of these people championing the hyper-rich also claim to be Christians. I would cite the passage attributed to Jesus: "If you do it unto the least of these, you do it unto me."

In their war on the poor, they are making war on their own religion.

Posted by: TomSimone | December 8, 2010 12:51 PM | Report abuse

"the deserving poor and the undeserving rich"????? You then make the argument that the rich are undeserving because "They already have so much, and the budget is in deficit, and the national debt is growing".

Liberalism IS a mental illness. The demonization of becoming rich and sucessful is destroying our once great county.
=====================

The country has been failing ever since Reagan and the idiocy of supply side economics. I guess you think a really successful country follows the third world model, a handful of rich people wallowing in inherited wealth and privilege, while the poor crap in the street and eat scraps.

Posted by: rapchat1 | December 8, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

“What did the middle or upper classes get from the recent healthcare bill?”
bobmoses:
--------
Well moses, for one, you don’t have to step over the poor dead on the hospital steps when you go in for your tummy tuck.

Posted by: samchannar | December 8, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Bashing the rich is a favorite pass time of many. The few rich people I know give their monies to charities and foundations and hire people at all levels. Bill Gates has probably done more for poverty and quality of life than any person in the world. Yes he could give more money to the government, but based on experience I doubt they would do more good with it than he does.

Posted by: sarno | December 8, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Reading the post of self proclaimed "conservatives" is disgusting.

Index the inheritance tax and the capital gains tax to income tax, then we can discuss whats fair. Until then the rich and their lackeys war on the poor and middle class will continue to destroy the economy. Supply side economics will lead directly to fascism, its just a matter of time.

Posted by: rapchat1 | December 8, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Hey, let's be alittle more grateful to the deserving rich. By that I mean:

1. The strong men of wall street (yes they are almost all men!) who reaped billions by making enormous deceptive bets with regular folks' money. When the bets went bad the regular folks lost houses and pensions, but hey, we were so grateful we bailed out these benefactors with our taxes.

2. Our popular entertainers (and their industry masters) who elevate our culture and spirit by filling the media with hateful political lies (yes Glenn Beck is an entertainer!), glorifications of violence, mysogynist objectification of women, and deadening brain candy.

3. Captains of industry who sell us low priced garbage through marketing manipulation, monopolistic mega-retailing, squandering of nonrenewable resources, and exporting of jobs so that they can pay poverty wages and demand endless hours in dangerous worplaces.

The list goes on, but you get the idea. Let's cut these peoples' taxes! They have to pay their servants after all.

signed,
a grateful servant


Posted by: dogsrule | December 8, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: PepperDr
"I am outdone by this "deal" that Obama struck. I have had it with his caving in to a party that is NOT IN THE MAJORITY!! He should have just let the tax rates increase, have the Dems introduce a bill in January to lower the taxes on the Middle class and let the GOP filibuster it--if they dare. He has NO spine and NO political acumen. "
--------
Perhaps he was afraid that the Republicans might call his bluff and somehow manage to make HIM look like the bad guy.
--------
"I will not vote for him again, unless the GOP candidate is Sarah Palin or someone else equally stupid and repugnant."
=========================
I see the obligatory irrelevant attack on Palin who has NO connection with this issue. She is not in the House or the White House or the Senate. But hey, let us throw a brickbat in her direction anyway just to prove, "I, PepperDr, am a good person - I hate Palin."

It used to be blacks coming in for unjust and irrelevant remarks, then it was the Irish, then (under McCarthy) it was "communist sympathizers" and now it is Sarah Palin.

Why are there so many people in America who are unable to spend even one day without hating someone?

Can't we have a one week holiday from hatred?

And if you want to say that SHE, Palin is hateful, let me see a direct quote from her (and not from Tina Fey who is actually not the same person as Palin).

I remember when the Ground Zero mosque was being discussed. Sarah Palin said, "Peaceful Muslims, please refudiate". Democrats went on the town with that word "refudiate", totally ignoring two more important words, "peaceful", and "please".

Palin is not vicious. She may be politically immature, but she is not vicious. But YOU are!

Posted by: rjpal | December 8, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: PepperDr
"I am outdone by this "deal" that Obama struck. I have had it with his caving in to a party that is NOT IN THE MAJORITY!! He should have just let the tax rates increase, have the Dems introduce a bill in January to lower the taxes on the Middle class and let the GOP filibuster it--if they dare. He has NO spine and NO political acumen. "
--------
Perhaps he was afraid that the Republicans might call his bluff and somehow manage to make HIM look like the bad guy.
--------
"I will not vote for him again, unless the GOP candidate is Sarah Palin or someone else equally stupid and repugnant."
=========================
I see the obligatory irrelevant attack on Palin who has NO connection with this issue. She is not in the House or the White House or the Senate. But hey, let us throw a brickbat in her direction anyway just to prove, "I, PepperDr, am a good person - I hate Palin."

It used to be blacks coming in for unjust and irrelevant remarks, then it was the Irish, then (under McCarthy) it was "communist sympathizers" and now it is Sarah Palin.

Why are there so many people in America who are unable to spend even one day without hating someone?

Can't we have a one week holiday from hatred?

And if you want to say that SHE, Palin is hateful, let me see a direct quote from her (and not from Tina Fey who is actually not the same person as Palin).

I remember when the Ground Zero mosque was being discussed. Sarah Palin said, "Peaceful Muslims, please refudiate". Democrats went on the town with that word "refudiate", totally ignoring two more important words, "peaceful", and "please".

Palin is not vicious. She may be politically immature, but she is not vicious. But YOU are!

Posted by: rjpal | December 8, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

I have stated this before and I will state it again. Who really believes that the Democrats if they were were still in power after January 1st would take any tax increase on the wealthy and use it to pay down the debt. Time and time again has shown that Democrats and Republicans when they were in power under Bush for 6 years spent money like drunken sailors. This is one of the majors reasons that the Republicans were voted out of power only to be replaced by Democrats who made the Republicans spending look extremely weak compared to what the Democrats and Obama managed to spend. Please do not give me any crap about how necessary it was because of the ecomony. If Obama and the Democrats were worried about the economy, they would have taken on jobs first instead of rewarding all of their backers such as the unions and other leftest interest.

Posted by: sales7 | December 8, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

I get offended when I hear people demonize Warren Buffet and suggest that if he wants to pay more in taxes, let him send a voluntary check to the IRS.

Ours is not a voluntary tax code; it is confiscatory. People pay taxes for things they sometimes don't want. If paying for the Iraq war in 2003 had been voluntary, I would not have sent in one red cent to the IRS to help fund it. Still, I have to pay for it every year just like every other American, including millions of taxpayers who opposed the war at the outset.

Warren Buffet could send in everything he owns to the IRS and still it wouldn't make a dent in reducing either the national debt or our annual deficits. Rather, it would require that not just Warren Buffet but everyone else in his wealth class to pony up more money in order to get our finances in order and begin lowering our chronic deficit habit.

Which, by the way, is probably how it should be anyhow. After all, isn't it the wealthy who stalk the halls of Congress and press for policy agendas that rack up all that debt in the first place? Isn't it the wealthy who are contribuing the most to the clownish representatives we have in the Congress who are most responsible for the debt. Then shouldn't they be paying more in taxes?

Posted by: sthomas1957 | December 8, 2010 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Two questions.
1. Where do journalists buy their reference books? Because none of mine indicate capitulation and compromise are synonyms.

2. For a party of rugged individualists, defenders of meritocracy, why are the Republicans so worried about protecting inherited wealth (a.k.a estate tax)? Why do we need to protect the futures of the idiot children of the wealthy? The non-idiot children would presumably be fine left to their own devices. Is the US a meritocracy or an aristocracy? I am so confused.

Posted by: caribis | December 8, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

So, this may be a stupid question, but I can't help wondering about this contention I keep seeing that giving rich people tax breaks doesn't help the economy because the rich just save the money. I'm no economist and couldn't defend or deny the wisdom of the tax cuts for the rich, but

I'm curious about the difference between the level of economic stimulus caused by middle class people spending money on consumer items and the amount of economic stimulus created by rich people saving money, presumably in savings accounts that provide capital for banks to lend and mutual funds that provide capital for businesses to expand. Even when the rich keep their money on the sidelines by saving it, aren't they really just investing it in ways that disperse risk and promise small but fairly certain returns?

I'd love a response from someone with a good grasp on these issues, perhaps one from each side of the aisle?

Posted by: mobrien83 | December 8, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Q: Now, can the lowly federal workers have their meager 1.4% raise????

A: Heck no. Obama made a big point of going on TV to broadcast that pennywise and pound foolish decision. He can't back down from that ON PRINCIPLE!!!! HaHaHaHaHa

Posted by: TooManyPeople | December 8, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Q: Now, can the lowly federal workers have their meager 1.4% raise????

A: Heck no. Obama made a big point of going on TV to broadcast that pennywise and pound foolish decision. He can't back down from that ON PRINCIPLE!!!! HaHaHaHaHa

Posted by: TooManyPeople | December 8, 2010 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Most of the above comments continue the rich vs. poor debate. Please share your thoughts...What defines "rich"? What defines wealthy? What defines a "working family"? People are arguing one side or the other of this debate but there isn't even agreement on the terms that are being debated.

Posted by: toms8 | December 8, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

The problems we have are largely because those with the power in Washington have made nothing but short-term decisions for years. Now Obama makes another "compromise" because of the short-term pain many are enduring. Maybe this isn't the time, but somebody at some point is going to have to fight for what he or she thinks is right in the long term for this country. Tax cuts for the rich ain't it. And if you want to stimulate the economy with deficit spending--which is essentially what these tax cuts are--surely there's a more efficient way to do it than give give it to the rich folks. How about you let the rates go back to the Clinton era and spend the equivalent $$ on more stimulus? You'd be a lot more sure of creating demand than you will giving the already rich more $$. Are they really going to spend more $$ because of the tax break? Are they really going to change their behavior? Not by much, I'll wager.

Posted by: Bass1 | December 8, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

My heart goes out to the rich. Fortunately, at the last minute, they were saved. While others were wondering from where their next meal would come, they had already eaten theirs and were preparing to sit down for the next one. How unfortunate. How can they stand it? Free of shame, bathed in greed, supporting Uncle Tom and Sara running together on the same ticket in 2012, killing the goose that laid the golden egg, they muddle on wondering who will fight for them? Only the poor souls who would like to be like them, one imagines, putting up with all the inequities and classicism, until one day, it just ends. Trash starts to appear in their yards and things start to happen that they had not expected, and it starts to dawn on them that maybe, they could have tightened their belt a little, like everyone else, lest the people get angry and fix their little wagon.

Posted by: rryder1 | December 8, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

It's a payroll tax CHRISTMAS. Quit being pc and calling it a holiday.

Posted by: xtopher | December 8, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

This is great theatrics!!!

The two million unemployed against the lavishly rich!!!! President Obama decided not to saw the baby into half; he chose to just keep it whole for another two years and work to change the behavior of those who would prefer to hold everything at hostage unless the super-rich are rewarded.

Meanwhile, this keeps those tea-partyers from hitting the ground running come January 1, 2011. Now, they will be looked upon as "freshman congressmen and senators" with little to offer towards their favorite pastime of saving the deficit. Nor will they be allowed to show their distaste for the poor and unemployed.

Before all the ink dries on this legislation, the Democratic President and the Democrats of both houses will have achieved a great ploy at the expense of the media. Instead of just screaming and hollering, some fundamentals, morals, results oriented focus and the necessity for all americans to become pro-active will be the energy for the next two years.

Meanwhile, the real question is who won this one? We all did because it dramatically shows to what lenghts one party will go towards protecting those that are already superiorly protected (i.e the rich).

Posted by: ronhamp | December 8, 2010 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Here's the next step: "20,000 Sacrificed In Annual Blood Offering To Corporate America"

http://www.theonion.com/articles/20000-sacrificed-in-annual-blood-offering-to-corpo,18542/

Once again, satire can't keep up with reality. If it were only that limited a sacrifice... As it is, we already sacrifice 47,000 a year to the insurance companies, 400,000 a year to the cigarette companies, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Posted by: mcstowy | December 8, 2010 2:10 PM | Report abuse

cohen: And what will the rich do with their something? Pocket it, most likely.

cohen this is a news flash, they already have their something and what we are talking about here is taking it away from them by not extending the current tax rates. I might be in favor of raising the taxes on the "rich" if I knew for certain that you wouldn't end up with some of it.

Posted by: Jabber3 | December 8, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Trash starts to appear in their yards and things start to happen that they had not expected, and it starts to dawn on them that maybe, they could have tightened their belt a little, like everyone else, lest the people get angry and fix their little wagon.

Posted by: rryder1 |
==========================
Ah, people did get angry and did fix A wagon - the Democrats lost 60 house seats in November. Were you out of the country? :)

Look, if the tax for the rich was 20%, liberals would say it was too little and the rich would say it was too much. And the liberals would be right.

If the tax for the rich was 80%, liberals would say it was too little (after all it used to be 91%) and the rich would say it was too much, and the rich would be right.

But what is the point where things switch from liberals being right to the rich being right?

Maybe it is 35% or maybe it is 39.6%, or maybe it is 50% or maybe it is 30%.

Unless we have an idea of what is the right amount, we do not know how to judge.

After all, if one man has ten dollars and another has ten dollars and ten cents, someone on this planet is going to be outraged by this offense against equality, and will take five cents awas from the second man to give to the first...

Posted by: rjpal | December 8, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Trash starts to appear in their yards and things start to happen that they had not expected, and it starts to dawn on them that maybe, they could have tightened their belt a little, like everyone else, lest the people get angry and fix their little wagon.

Posted by: rryder1 |
==========================
Ah, people did get angry and did fix A wagon - the Democrats lost 60 house seats in November. Were you out of the country? :)

Look, if the tax for the rich was 20%, liberals would say it was too little and the rich would say it was too much. And the liberals would be right.

If the tax for the rich was 80%, liberals would say it was too little (after all it used to be 91%) and the rich would say it was too much, and the rich would be right.

But what is the point where things switch from liberals being right to the rich being right?

Maybe it is 35% or maybe it is 39.6%, or maybe it is 50% or maybe it is 30%.

Unless we have an idea of what is the right amount, we do not know how to judge.

After all, if one man has ten dollars and another has ten dollars and ten cents, someone on this planet is going to be outraged by this offense against equality, and will take five cents awas from the second man to give to the first...

Posted by: rjpal | December 8, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

In the spirit of trying to think through the problem. the 60 seats that the democrats lost, some of them very conservative, is not without a great number of precedents. We shouldn't fool ourselves, democrats, republicans or tea praters with the idea that some how we are effecting change. It should be self evident that it is not. When, everyone pays the same percentage of taxes on income, regardless of the size of the income, without any deductions for anything, then we might be talking change and we could drop the liberal/conservative arguments and just fund the costs of government as it is. Let the argument go on in terms of the social safety net, so that we can see in its true perspective the ideas of men looking backwards in time and those able to look forward with imagination to make this a better society. It is in one of its more pathetic moments, right now and it would be nice to find a way to move on to something better for all.

Posted by: rryder1 | December 8, 2010 4:37 PM | Report abuse

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