The just-announced compromise between President Obama and gloating Republicans seems to be the final nail in the coffin of the Obama Administration. This guy, to put it simply, seems to have no stomach for a fight at all. Like some modern anti-hero, when the going gets rough, he caves. So today, as he’s been hinting all along, he announced that he would extend the Bush tax cuts for all Americans, including those making over $250,000/year or even $1 million a year (as Senator Schumer proposed.) No, Obama ate the whole poisoned meal, and tried to defend it to outraged colleagues. More than that, he added a couple of new wrinkles. First, he proposed to provide a year’s drop of 2% in the FICA or Social Security taxes that all Americans pay (progressives have proposed making wealthy Americans pay more by extending the amount of income subject to SS taxes, but Obama, predictably, went the other way). While Obama claims that this will put more money in the hands of working Americans (and it will, short term), other progressives have pointed out that it makes a start in a direction favored by the most rabid reactionaries, who have been trying to get rid of Social Security for 80 years. That is, by reducing the amount going into the Social Security Trust Fund (already raided for years by mainly Republican presidents to finance their shitty wars), the President’s action will add to the pressure to bankrupt Social Security to the point where it will be abandoned as too costly. After all, Americans need their military-industrial complex. But there’s another element to the plan as well, again a major cave-in to slavering Republicans and their millionaire constituency. The hated estate tax would be lowered, on estates worth more than $5 million, to 35%. Democrats, Obama’s party, wanted to make the tax 45% on all estates over $3.5 million (still a lowering from the 55% it had been), but again, the Republican plan won.
Sort of makes you wonder if perhaps Obama isn’t a closet Republican, doesn’t it?
Whatever he is—and it certainly is not progressive—it now seems clear that he has decided that his only hope for winning in 2012 is to follow Bill Clinton’s example, and turn to the right after a mid-tern ‘shellacking’. It is a bitter pill for progressives to swallow after the euphoria that greeted his election. It is also, unless I miss my guess, the death knell for his administration. Because the one thing Americans despise more than a loser is a president so weak he can’t even muster the courage to use his bully pulpit to fight for what he believes in. Instead, at every turn, Obama has caved in to conservative forces—whether it’s on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Health Care “reform”, or taxes on the rich. Perhaps he long ago concluded that as a black man, he had to present himself as a non-threatening, non-combative intellectual. But he’s done that, and it has backfired every time. According to Republican rhetoric, he’s a socialist, a communist, a Muslim and a Nazi all rolled into one. Why he thinks he can somehow ingratiate himself with them and their constituency now is a mystery no one seems able to solve. The only thing that appears certain to me, again, is that it—plus his continuing cowardice in confronting his enemies—will condemn him to one term. Given the lack of backbone he’s displayed thus far (and sadly, he has tons of company among his Democratic comrades in Congress), perhaps that’s a good thing.