Felicia Muftic: One size never fits all
Grand County, CO Colorado
Politics is about idealism, ideology and identification of winning strategies. If President Obama has not always toed the line on idealism and ideology, he may have gotten the third element right to the ultimate benefit of the idealists and ideologues in his own party. Case in point: the tax deal extending Bush tax cuts.
Ideally most Americans just want to be left alone to pursue life and happiness. “America, the land of opportunity” is the bread and butter of the American ideals. Unfortunately, the opportunity part escapes many. The lack of a good education and access to health care and even finding a job in an economic downturn have made American ideals unreachable for a large number.
The question of how to reach those ideals fuels a constant dialog within and between the political parties. One of the issues in the midterm was how much government should do to help Americans reach those ideals. The problem with dedicated keepers of ideology on the left or right is that they have a one size fits all approach when circumstances and winning politics call for something else.
The Tea Party took the extreme view that nearly any action the federal government takes is inferior to doing nothing at all and/or leaving problem-solving up to the overburdened, underfunded struggling states. They ignored warnings of most economists that given the fragile economy now was not the time to cut government spending. Ideological fear of the national debt increase had consumed the Republicans in the midterms, yet given a chance to extend tax breaks to the rich, their congressional leaders caved in on their right base’s demands to cut government spending to offset the hit to the debt.
The left ideologues have their own “one size fits all” approach. They considered Obamacare without the public option an ideological failure. Never mind it met the goal of extending access to care to 30 million more consumers.
The left wing’s tepid voter turnout in the midterms contributed somewhat to their diminished power in Congress. They are undermining their ability to be effective once again by getting hung up on the tax deal protecting the rich.
It is reality check time. Democrats lost power in the midterm mostly because the middle made a right turn. A consequence of the election is that the left also lost support of surviving centrist congressional Democrats. Obama has correctly identified a winning strategy in 2012. The middle must be won back and Obama’s tax deal just may be the ticket to make it happen.
The tax deal Obama negotiated with the Republicans that passed the Senate and is now before the House is more or less a continuation of the 2008 stimulus package; low taxes and no cut in government spending, with an extension of unemployment, education and child care benefits. It is a pragmatic problem-solving approach given the slowly improving economy.
It is also good politics. Obama will get credit for any economic upturn, improving Democrats’ chances for victory and preserving gains in health care and Wall Street reform.
What if the economy and the job picture remain grim? Republicans may have set a trap for themselves in 2012 by championing the rich at the expense of the other 98 percent and by promoting proven worthless economic policies.
Obama has shown adroitness by condemning the tax breaks for the rich while painting his “caving in” as a political necessity. In so doing, he has preserved his ability in the future to campaign on opposing permanent tax breaks for the rich. If he can couple the cost of permanent tax breaks with the concern about the long-term effects of the deficit, he may generate even more appeal to the middle.
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