President Obama held a press conference to defend the compromise that he reached with the Republicans on a temporary extension of the Bush tax cuts in exchange for a long term extension of unemployment benefits. In response to critics of the deal, the President dared Republicans to test his willingness to fight, “I will be happy to see the Republicans test whether or not I’m itching for a fight on a whole range of issues. I suspect they will find I am.”
Obama emphasized repeatedly in his press conference that he cut this deal so that millions of people would not lose their unemployment benefits. Obama stated that he didn’t want to negotiate with the GOP hostage takers, but he could not let millions of people suffer, “I’ve said before that I felt that the middle-class tax cuts were being held hostage to the high-end tax cuts. I think it’s tempting not to negotiate with hostage-takers, unless the hostage gets harmed. Then people will question the wisdom of that strategy. In this case, the hostage was the American people and I was not willing to see them get harmed.”
The president discussed what would happen to those two million people if their unemployment benefits expired, “Again, this not an abstract political fight. This is not isolated here in Washington. There are people right now who, when their unemployment insurance runs out, will not be able to pay the bills. There are folks right now who are just barely making it on the paycheck that they’ve got, and when that paycheck gets smaller on January 1st, they’re going to have to scramble to figure out, how am I going to pay all my bills? How am I going to keep on making the payments for my child’s college tuition? What am I going to do exactly?”
Obama knew public opinion was on his side on the tax cut issue, but the unemployed were running out of time, “Now, I could have enjoyed the battle with Republicans over the next month or two, because as I said, the American people are on our side. This is not a situation in which I have failed to persuade the American people of the rightness of our position. I know the polls. The polls are on our side on this. We weren’t operating from a position of political weakness with respect to public opinion. The problem is that Republicans feel that this is the single most important thing that they have to fight for as a party. And in light of that, it was going to be a protracted battle and they would have a stronger position next year than they do currently…The deal that we’ve struck here makes the high-end tax cuts temporary, and that gives us the time to have this political battle without having the same casualties for the American people that are my number one concern.”
President Obama warned Republicans that the tax cut/unemployment benefits standoff was a unique circumstance, and dared them to test his resolve to fight when fate of 2 million unemployed people was not being held economic hostage, “I will be happy to see the Republicans test whether or not I’m itching for a fight on a whole range of issues. I suspect they will find I am. And I think the American people will be on my side on a whole bunch of these fights. But right now I want to make sure that the American people aren’t hurt because we’re having a political fight, and I think that this agreement accomplishes that.”
The people who are outraged over this compromise on tax cuts just don’t get it. They view the issue as a narrow battle over whether or not the wealthy deserve a tax cut, but the situation changed as soon as the Republicans decided to hold unemployment benefits hostage until they got their tax cut. I know this might be impossible for some on the Angry Left to comprehend, but there are millions of people out there right now who can’t find a job, and unemployment benefits are the only income that they have. Unlike you, they don’t have jobs and money.
The people whose benefits were on the line can’t afford for the President to engage in a protracted ideological standoff. If you are a person whose economic circumstances are fine, you’re probably enraged over this compromise, but if you happen to be one of the unemployed whose future was about to be swallowed into uncertain poverty, you are likely breathing a sigh of relief tonight. I don’t know why the Angry Left can’t understand this. Without the prospect of millions of people losing their unemployment benefits, there would have been no compromise.
Obama’s motives had nothing to do with giving the left the victory and feel good moment that they are desperately and selfishly craving. Obama is taking a beating from his base because he decided that making sure that two million people can afford food and heat this winter is more important than an ideological victory. There will be plenty of time for Obama to give the Angry Left their conflict fix later. If Obama would have let 2 million people lose their benefits, the economic and political consequences would have been worse for him than anything that the Angry Left could have done.
There was a time, not very long ago, when the left would have been fighting for the downtrodden and the unemployed. It is with great sadness that I must note that those days appear to be gone. In this tax cut debate, today’s progressive got caught up in a selfish battle of mine versus yours on tax cuts. Some progressives are so caught up in the lustful pursuit of political victories that they have lost their heart and values.
Luckily, we still have a president who understands that taking care of 2 million of our most economically vulnerable fellow Americans is more important than, “winning” a debate over temporary tax cuts. Progressives can moan about their political defeat, but before they turn out the lights in their nice warms homes tonight they ought to think about the millions of Americans who the Democratic President of the United States helped today. In my opinion, the left has lost touch with the soul of their movement. Even if they don’t get it any more, at least the man in the Oval Office still understands what a true liberal never forgets. People always come before politics.
Jason is the managing editor. He is also a White House Press Pool and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association
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