Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A victory is a victory

The White House has declared victory with the Senate bill on taxes. Given that most of the Bush tax cuts end with this version they have every right to crow. It's not the FDR era reform ending the predation of the 'economic royalists' that gave us the boom times that we had until Reagan unleashed them again, but it's all good anyway. 

It's true that the threshold for higher taxes was raised to $400,000 but it also limits deductions for individuals starting at $250,000. More importantly is raises the capital gains tax rate back up to 20%, which increases the rate Mitt Romney and his ilk pay by a third. It should be four times that, but what can you do? The Senate bill will also reinstate the 'death tax' for estates over $5 million indexed to inflation, and sets the top rate at 40%, a major blow to the billionaires. Not enough, but better than the zero rate Romney promised.

For the first time in 50 years the Republicans won't be able to use the annual expiration of the Alternative Minimum Tax 'fix' that protects the middle class from a huge tax bite originally aimed at millionaires as wedge to bargain with, as it will  finally be linked to inflation. 

The so-called 'Doc' fix to Medicare that keeps compensation to doctors from being slashed by a third will be included for only one year however, allowing Republicans to mess with that again. And again, and again, no doubt.

The bill reinstates tax breaks for lower income people that were expiring, unemployment benefits and such, as well as tax breaks for small business. It even renews tax breaks for teachers who buy their own supplies.  Most importantly it includes the renewal of expired wind energy tax credits that will get us off of coal generated electricity.

To listen to the Far Right's 'strum und drang' about the betrayal of the Republicans in the Senate who voted overwhelmingly for this bill you would think their world had ended. Let's be clear, it's nothing that should be considered 'reform'. It's just way better than what were expecting. 

It still has to pass the House, and Eric Cantor is not interested in letting that happen, he really wants to be Speaker and lead the Tea Baggers back to the 'gilded age' of the 1880s. The question is what will John Boner do? The new Congress will have significantly fewer Tea Bag members. Does he have the votes to get re-elected? That is all he cares about, not being Speaker means far fewer invites to billionaire funded golf junkets. By some estimates he spends more time playing golf than on the House floor, you don't get an orange tan like his writing legislation. If Boner can get as few as 15 Republican votes and the votes of Democrats, it will pass. That would be Democracy, but that's a dirty word to Republicans.

If you actually understand economics and the history of Progressive reform should you call this a major victory? Hell no. Given the reality of American politics and the level of ignorance that holds sway in our time, is this a fantastic achievement by the Obama Administration? Hell yes. That is if it passes the House. 

At best this only rolls back the onslaught of the billionaires to the Clinton era, when they did very well in wiping out the middle class. We can't think that we have won the war for America, we just kept a bit of high ground. The real battle still rages on, and we haven't even won this skirmish yet. Keep your powder dry.   www.prairie2.com