Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Does Tax Deal Show Gridlock Loosening? Nope.

Some may say the agreement between congressional Republicans and President Obama on taxes shows that compromise can be achieved under the circumstance of divided government, that there truly is a willingness to reach across party lines, that gridlock is, perhaps, easing. I don't think so. Tax cuts are the lightest lift in American politics. They require no sacrifice by anyone. There is no organized constituency opposed to them. And opposition to them can be politically poisionous, sometimes fatal. But what we have done with this deal is only making our long term chronic deficit problem worse -- laying down $900 billion of new debt in one fell swoop, increasing the total public debt accrued since the beginning of the Republic by 6% in just two years. We have also reinforced the cultural norm that no sacrifice is necessary to deal with our long term problems. Moreover, this action is not a blueprint for future compromises because it was made possible by the unique circumstances in which this debate has arisen: the fact that tax cuts were expiring created a hard deadline for action. Republicans were eager to flex their muscles and deliver a promise right after the new election, Obama had to demonstrate a new post-shellacking approach. Before declaring the era of gridlock to be over -- we need to see progress on issues that require both parties to call on their constituencies to sacrifice on their core principles for the public benefit. This act of mutally assured fiscal irresponsibilty doesn't qualify.

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