Kent Pitman

Kent Pitman
New England, USA
Philosopher, Technologist, Writer
I've been using the net in various roles—technical, social, and political—for the last 30 years. I'm disappointed that most forums don't pay for good writing and I'm ever in search of forums that do. (I've not seen any Tippem money, that's for sure.) And I worry some that our posting here for free could one day put paid writers in Closed Salon out of work. See my personal home page for more about me.


DECEMBER 1, 2010 12:22PM

Political Fumbling

Rate: 13 Flag

The Republicans tell us we must renew the Bush tax cuts or jobs will be at risk. I don’t believe them.

I wrote about this yesterday, but Travellini says I buried my lead. So let me try again in slightly revised form: 

The tax cuts are already there and the jobs aren’t returned. And, further, profits are at record highs. Profits are the surplus after the business has done all it wants to do. If these companies thought they could or should invest in manpower, they’d be doing it before offering up profit. But they aren’t. Profits today are made by strict adherence to the maxim of “do more with less.”

And they don't care about the deficit either. You can tell that because they're willing to run it up by $700 billion when it's obvious it will do nothing to create new jobs.

So, no, I don’t believe the cover story offered by the Republicans as flimsy veneer over their transparently greedy rush to further enrich the already-rich during this time of national need and calls for personal sacrifice.

To quote Warren Buffett, “There’s no sacrifice among the rich.”

And yet the Democrats seem to be fumbling around, unable to score this very easy political point, even when 98% of Americans are clearly at risk of being hoodwinked by the greed of the richest 2%. On that point, Rachel Maddow had this powerful advice for President Obama at the end of her show on Monday:

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Obama's negotiation tactics are a complete mystery to me. I could see a strategic blunder early in his Presidency, but he's done it so often that it has become predictable and is now expected of him. I'd be more surprised if he didn't show every card in his hand. I was shocked when he ditched single payer. this last fiasco with freezing federal wages came as no surprise at all. Neither did the tax extensions for the rich that he gave away before they're even voted on. I don't get it.
Michael, I'm with you. It was something one could ascribe to a blunder when it happened once. At this point, one can only call it a policy he has for how to bargain badly. I think it's an issue of ego. He wants more than anything to think he's being magnanimous or leading the way to compromise. Really he's just selling us out. I've described it as a bidding process between someone who wants $2 and someone who wants to pay $1. The person who wants $2 says "I'll meet you halfway, how about $1.50." and the other guy responds, "$1.25?" And the person who started says "Done." Yeah, that's compromise all right. 75/25... if he doesn't also iterate the mistaken theory.
Well, a total lapse would be a significant fiscal drag in theory, although they are high to think they can re-extend the whole thing either, given the negative net worth of the Federal Government.
Don, the Republican definition of fair seems to be “if you can get someone into a position where they can't afford to say no, you're being fair.” That's pretty much how contract law works. But to paraphrase Sir Thomas More from A Man for All Seasons, let the courts construe according to the law, but we regular folk must construe according to our wits.
It is all so maddening Kent. The video said it all and I do not understand the strategy. Could it be that we are witnessing one of the poorer politicians in modern times?
Dr. Spudman, I think that's right. Although it's possible he's just more conservative than anyone gives him credit for, and so he's where he means to be. That would be sad, too.
Does the White House ever listen to Rachel? I have no clever comment here. Listening to Rachel in light of your piece, I begin to think I understand Obama. He is thoughtful as in full of thought. So am I - well, in my own way. He expects others to respond in kind. I hope for the same. When I was little, I was taught to teach by example. Maybe Obama was too. However, as Rachel points out with Lucy/Charlie Brown, not everyone plays by the rules. Obama, like I in my own little way, wants to believe that if he tries hard enough, they will see the light. I want them to see the light as well. What happened to people who were open enough and cared about people enough to bother to look for the light. When did greed become all there is. Why does one party think they will one day rule the world when the world they steer us all toward is one where our role will be all past tense. Fall of the Roman Empire Part Two. Do they really not see this and do they really not care and what in the name of God are Democrats doing at all? They are not even running in circles to keep time. Ted Kennedy may well have been the Last Lion of the Senate but he left no heir in place. Do we all just wait in place until we all fall down? Those on the bottom of the heap are receiving no hand up. Is this the country we thought we were?

Sorry, Kent, running away from your piece into a bit of a rant.
Anna, I don't think you're running very far from my point at all. Thanks for the thoughts. :)
“There’s no sacrifice among the rich.”

There never has been.
And it sucks
rated with hugs
Linda, I think historically that's not quite true. From 1944 to 1963, which included some post war boom times, the top marginal tax rate in the US was upwards of 80% and often more than 90%. Many of the rich probably made their money not on earned income but investments, so that may not be an accurate measure. But it's certainly true that there have been times when the rich were more gracious and the country prospered better as a whole. This race to the bottom is, I believe, worse these days than it has been.
I'll still give Obama credit for trying to rise above this era's pernicious partisanship. I don't disagree with you Kent, or with Rachel; I just think that Obama's still trying to play a different game. This tax cut expiration though is serious. If he doesn't hold fast on that then I'll probably move over to the "poor politician" camp too.
Abrawang, indeed—he can win this by doing nothing. Admittedly, it will hurt the poor. But if the Republicans insist, he can just let the cuts expire. The Republicans seem to be itching to blame that on Obama, but I think the Democrats can defend it if they try. Both as a reasonable action and as a Republican-caused action. The whole reason this issue comes up (the expiration) is that Bush did an end-run of regulations at the time that would have forced him to confront the deficit bloating problem if he wanted the cuts permanent. So instead he used reconciliation to get it done in a ten-year temporary way by simple majority. So really it's Bush's fault because (a) he skirted regulations, (b) he chose a mechanism that would force the rise if not renewed, (c) he was explicitly seeking to exclude the Democrats and that means it was a 100% Republican choice to have it end this way, and (d) it's about damned time someone talked about the deficit effect.
Nothing else to add! Good job as usual.
Kanuk, thanks for visiting. Glad you liked the analysis. I wish I thought it was being carried to someone who could use it. It's hard to tell what the Administration is listening to.
There was an interesting piece on NPR this morning on which the interviewees were quite critical of Obama's negotiating skills--and they made a compelling case. /r/
You're so, so right. Sigh.
Steve, thanks for the info. I'll look for it.

Blue, glad you agree.

Watching the evening news here on MSNBC it seems like maybe the word is getting out. :)

I’m baffled by all the head-scratching about Obama’s actions. It seems to me that people are STILL trying to make excuses for Obama and the other Dem leadership in Congress. This is the equivalent of seeing your robber as he robs you and denying that he’s robbing you. Just call it like you SEE it. What do your own eyes show you? Ask, “Why?” Why does Obama give up before he even tries?

I can only find two conclusions: either he’s a total buffoon, or he’s as dishonest as the Repubs. At this point, I’m not sure which, but I lean toward dishonest.
I think Obama is an inept politician with some very strong skills (oratory) and weak skills (bargaining). I think he's also failing to read the situation well and to some extent thinks he's succeeding, which is causing him not to shift modes, too. But I am not apologizing for him. I've said I think he's been a disappointment and should not run again. What we need is someone credible to step forward because at this point only the Democrats and Republicans are electable, and at this point I wouldn't elect a Republican and among the Democrats he's the only one running. I think that will be a tactical error for the Democrats since the Republicans have been studying what to do to Obama for years. They'll demolish him this time around and he won't know what hit him.

"...I think he's also failing to read the situation well and to some extent thinks he's succeeding, which is causing him not to shift modes, too."

So you lean toward "buffoon". ;-)
No, I don't. I don't like ad hominem name-calling, which always has an indefensible element that weakens one's argument. I don't think I'm pulling my punches but I prefer to stick to the facts, which are the Obama's strategy is not doing what people want and may or may not be doing what he wants. I think it's not what the Democratic party should be aspiring to. I don't think he's being an effective leader and I'm uncertain about the why, although the pathology seems clear enough to study.