No Holiday From Hysteria

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Obama Administration

One part of the tax compromise I kind of like is the payroll tax holiday part. Low-income workers may not pay income tax, but FICA taxes still take a big hit on their paychecks.

The “holiday” is a 2 percent reduction for one year, for employees only. Employers still pay the amount they owe now. It’s not exactly a windfall, but for very low-income workers every little bit helps.

Right now a lot of allegedly liberal bloggers are bashing the payroll tax holiday and saying that another tax credit, such as the “Making Work Pay” income tax credit of $400 per person in effect for 2009 and 2010 (alas, no more), was the way to go. Several bloggers have linked to an article at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities that makes this argument.

However, the article is a year old and describes a different tax holiday proposal than the one in the compromise bill. The “holiday” described in the article is one Republicans suggested a while back that would have suspended payroll taxes entirely for a short time, for employers as well as employees. Most of the specific arguments in the article against a payroll tax holiday do not apply to the “holiday” plan we’re actually dealing with at the moment.

Of the current holiday plan, Ezra Klein wrote,

Rather than extending the administration’s Making Work Pay tax credit for two years, which would’ve been worth about $60 billion a year, they’ve agreed to a one-year cut in the payroll taxes paid by employees, which’ll raise $120 billion in 2011. That’s a much stronger boost over the next year, and of course these tax cuts have a tendency to get extended.

And I’d add that FICA taxes are a bigger burden to low-wage workers than income taxes. As Republicans never stop reminding us, a lot of lucky duckies out there pay no income tax because they don’t earn enough to be taxed. But FICA taxes get taken out of everyone’s paycheck.

The Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit enacted under the Making Work Pay tax credit bill were set to expire this year, also but are now extended. These credits make a big difference to the very poor.

Among the sites working overtime to bash the tax agreement is, of course, Firedoglake, and the most over-the-top criticism of the bill I saw there is by Nancy Altman, who has decided the compromise is an Obama Administration plot to destroy Social Security.

After linking to the year-old and mostly irrelevant Center on Budget and Policy Priorities article, she declares that if the “holiday” becomes permanent Social Security will be way underfunded, and Congress would be pressured to slash away at benefits promised to younger workers. And yes, that could happen.

It’s not clear to me if Altman understands that employers’ contributions to Social Security are not being cut, which would impact her calculations, but she’s assuming the Congress elected in 2012 will be even more conservative than the one we’ll get for the next two years. Frankly, if that’s the case, losing Social Security will be among the least of our economic problems. (Buy your Guernsey now, before the price goes up.)

There’s a lot about the compromise to criticize, certainly. Extending all of the Bush tax cuts is ruinous to our long-term economic health, and the more-conservative Congress Altman assumes will probably extend them yet again. Also, Paul Krugman argues that because the payroll tax holiday and unemployment extension are for only one year, the economy is likely to be stalled again in 2012 when President Obama is running for re-election.

Today some economists are arguing that the tax compromise amounts to a “back-door stimulus” that really should give the economy a boost in 2011, and given the makeup of the next Congress this may be about the only way a stimulus bill can be enacted. If the choice is this bill or nothing, the economy is better off with this bill.

It appears the Obama Administration (and the rest of us) will continue to be haunted by his failure to get a bigger stimulus package early in his administration, when he had the political capital and the majorities in both houses to make that possible. Yes, massive screwup on Obama’s part. But what’s done is done.

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57 Comments

57 Comments

  1. Ed McPartlin  •  Dec 8, 2010 @11:31 am

    Next year the Republicans will be saying that Obama is raising taxes by not extending the reduced rate. This “holiday” weakens the Social Security by 180 Billion Dollars a year. This is good?

  2. maha  •  Dec 8, 2010 @12:47 pm

    This “holiday” weakens the Social Security by 180 Billion Dollars a year. This is good?

    Did you actually read the post and consider what it says, or did you just come here to show us how high your knee can jerk?

  3. biggerbox  •  Dec 8, 2010 @12:09 pm

    Can we get a White House staffer who’s been assigned to run the media campaign taking credit for the FICA holiday, so that all those low-information voters who will be getting it will hear that Obama actually lowered their taxes and increased their take-home, not the reverse? Please?

  4. Ed McPartlin  •  Dec 8, 2010 @12:59 pm

    As the post say the tax “holiday” if made permanent will greatly reduce the Social Security trust fund. It is a lousy idea.

  5. maha  •  Dec 8, 2010 @1:12 pm

    Ed McPartlin: Just about any stimulus provision Congress might enact would be ruinous if it became permanent. By itself, that is not a logical reason to oppose a one-year provision. And I think it’s likely the Republicans in the House will stop the “holiday” for 2012, for the reasons Krugman argues — they don’t want the economy “stimulated” too much during the 2012 presidential campaign.

    Further, as I said, if Congress remains so right-wing that all these tax cuts and holidays become permanent, Social Security will be the least of our problems. Imagine being on the Titanic and upset because the life boats are painted the wrong color. Well, that’s you.

  6. c u n d gulag  •  Dec 8, 2010 @1:07 pm

    I prefer the term “Stealth Stimulus,” just because I think it adds an element of sneakiness that will really rile the Teabagger up to a boil.

    As a student of politics and history, what I find interesting is the Presidents response yesterday, and to whom.
    Clinton, after the midterm in ’94, and after HCR was as dead as the USSR, when he faced criticism from the left, it came in the form of Op-Ed’s, Letters to the Editor, or through the traditional groups like unions, the NAACP, and other “left” organizations. And when he answered the left, he was addressing, for the most part, those groups, who then filtered the response to members. The internet just kicked into gear and blogging was in its infancy, and he really didn’t face the kind of individual and Blog Group-think that Obama faces until his 2nd Administration. And again, even thenit was still a young, maturing, and untested force, but a growing one.
    When George W. “Little Boots” Bush got in office, the internet was in getiing into full swing. But, unlike Clinton and now Obama, he didn’t face any criticism from the right, or little, at best. No matter what he did, groups, individuals, writers and bloggers, got in lock-step, which is what Republicans, unlike Democrats, do behind leaders. Sure the left critisized Bush, but he didn’t give a damn. His own side had his back. Almost no one on the right got on him and his mis-Administration on torure (as anti-American a thing as could be imagined). Or the invasion of individual privacy by the CIA, the NSA, the FBI, etc. (a core conservative belief for as long as anyone could remember). Almost no one on the right complained when Habeus Corpus was tossed out the window like someone ‘airmailing’ garbage from an upper story. Bush was compared to Winston Churchill by these people. He had little push-back from his base. At least until the end when it was evident his mis-Admsinstration was as absolute a catastrophe as you could have and still have a semi-functioning nation. Only then did some of his base turn on him – some remained loyal, even to this day. But the fault behind the catastrophe, they claimed, was not in Conservatism, dear Brutus, it was in our Bush’s. And so this morally bankrupt ‘philosopy’ lives on, Because Conservatism cannot fail, dear friends, it can only be failed.
    And now to Obama. The internet is in full swing. Nitwits like me can comment everywhere, and some even bigger nitwits have their own blogs, which now represent what I call “Blog Group-think.” Yes, organizations like unions, the NAACP, Op-ed’s are still important. But they’re no longer the only way to channel any discontent. You have now Group Blog-think. Where a blogger and like-minded followers can combine to form one voice, far stronger than any indivuduals. I use to read Jane Jamsher and “Firedoglake” every day. Then, suddenly, she started to play footise with Grover Norqvuist. WTF?!?! I almost puked. But, now she and others have a voice that the President is forced to listen to. And that’s not a bad thing at all. But, again, you have to account for the nitwit factor. Bloggers who don’t know or understand legislation, or even the articles explaining it, opine like expert Egyptologist on King Tut.
    Now, Blog Group-think can do great things like get signatures for petitions without some poor soul having to stand on steet corners in the rain or show. Or unite people and move issues, even fill rallies.
    So other Democratic Presidents, even Clinton, until the end of his adminstration, when anwering dissidents on ‘the left’ did it throught the groups, and occasionally further explaining on TV or in Op-eds they wrote. Obama is not only answering those groups, he’s also talking to individuals who read and comment via Blog Group-think. People feel that there’s more at stake. That their voices aren’t being heard. How many people wrote “Letters to the Editor” over the years? Few. But now, every comment is like a mini “Letter to the Editor,” even though it’s only going to be read by the person who heads that blog, and fellow readers and commenters. Before, when your issues weren’t addressed, you had little recourse but to whine at home, or through your group. Now, bcause the bloggers have done some things, people expect that they can influence anything and everything.
    It’s an interesting dynamic, and, again, I’m not against it. But, if Newt, or any of the other dwarves, or even ‘Snowflake Snookie White’ gets elected, do you think that they’ll face the same amount of dissidence from their own on the right? Either through the mainsteream or the internt? I think not. Because as bad a Liberal Blog Group-think may seem, its opposite, Lemming Blog Group-think is worse.
    That Obama is facing criticism from his own should not be amazing. Democrats always did that. And now a new medium, the blog, is another voice to be heard besides the traditional outlets. What wll be amazing, is if there’s even a whisper of criticism from the right when the next Republican becomes President. And we’d better hope that that doesn’t happen until the party and its followers start ‘sane-pill’ therapy.
    I think it’s healthy that Obama is being criticized and is answering back. What I find disturbing isn’t the bloggers, but the Democratic Senators who are now starting to speak out, who have at best been a speed-bump, and at worst, a solid wall to any of the Presidnet’s intiatives and to progress.

  7. jamie  •  Dec 8, 2010 @1:50 pm

    I agree with Ed McPartlin and FDL on this one. If anything the right wing will push for employer relief from FICA taxes next year. After all they have been against Soc. SEC. since it’s inception and how better to kill it than to short change it. Look how much mileage they are getting out of the present funding condition. Obama has been much to eager to compromise his stated positions. If DR. King would have done that Obama would have only gotten into the White House as a janitor.

  8. maha  •  Dec 8, 2010 @2:17 pm

    I agree with Ed McPartlin and FDL on this one. If anything the right wing will push for employer relief from FICA taxes next year.

    You do realize this is a slippery slope argument? Along the lines of “if we allow gay marriage, what’s to stop people from marrying children? or goats?” Although come to think of it, you could do worse than a goat. But let’s go on …

    Many things are possible. Let’s say Congress extends the payroll holiday another year. The economy is more stimulated, people start to like the Obama Administration a lot better, and a bunch of progressives are elected to Congress in 2012.

    And then they can rewrite FICA taxes to make them more progressive. Robert Reich had an idea to not tax the first $20,000 of income and make up the difference by lifting the income cap and raising FICA taxes at upper income levels. Woo HOO!

    Well, I can dream. The thing is, ANY stimulus provision I can think of will increase the budget deficit, and therefore would probably be ruinous to the economy if made permanent. The Social Security trust fund is in better shape now than the regular budget, although I agree it can’t keep taking hits forever.

    But I also know that the Obama Administration has boxed itself in by being too conciliatory at the beginning, and now it has very little room to maneuver, and there is little it can do that the Right couldn’t turn into some kind of political advantage, somehow. So if we start to argue oh, we can’t do X, because the Republicans might do Y, and that would be bad, then we’re pretty much boxing ourselves in from doing anything at all. And that would be bad, too.

    But this concern that a one-year 2 percent FICA tax holiday will destroy Social Security strikes me as frantic grasping for any evidence one can find that the Obama Administration is eeeeeeeeevul and we should have elected Hillary Clinton instead. Just stop it.

  9. jamie  •  Dec 8, 2010 @3:04 pm

    Maha, I was just stating my position based on past actions and only time will tell which way it turns out. Until proved different, I will continue to worry about the safety of Soc Sec.
    P S Never tried a goat and I’m too old to start anything new now. Was that comment really called for?

  10. c u n d gulag  •  Dec 8, 2010 @3:07 pm

    Ed,
    The beauty of the FICA rolldown is that it’s for employees. Employer contributions remain at 6.2% (from what I remember).
    Which means, if there IS growth in the enonomy, and there’s MORE employment, many of the dollars that are lost through the cut will come back through more workers.
    A lot of the things in this “deal” are like that. There are sublte “Stealth Stimulus” benefits there if people bother to read and understand it. But, the “Obama folded” meme is a lot easier.
    Again, I’d like him to stand up and fight. But, without any help from the damn Senate for the last 2 years, this is not as bad a deal as the “professional left” is painting it.
    Is anyone under the impression that the next House, and an even weaker Senate, would make for a better deal? Hell, THIS Senate can’t even get behind this, with snakes like “Typhoid Mary” Landrieu all of a sudden chiming in, after not supporting anything the House did, or the President wanted, for two years.
    So, yeah, go ahead geniouses – primary Obama! And help lay the red carpet down for “SnowWhiteFlake Snookie” Sarah or one of the other dwarves. I can see Evan Byah getting a thrill up his leg at the very thought.

  11. wmd  •  Dec 8, 2010 @3:45 pm

    I don’t see the downside to Obama fighting.

    When did he say “republicans want to give millionaires another $100,000 bonus”? “this bonus to millionaires will increase the deficit $400B” over the next 10 years, and it is irresponsible to increase the deficit with giveaways to millionaires”.

    He didn’t make the case effectively. Republicans put a gun to the head of the unemployed, as they did 5 times in the past year.

    To his credit Obama did get some stimulus out of it. It’s weak tea, but at least there’s something to show for his negotiation with the hostage takers.

  12. Billy Bob  •  Dec 8, 2010 @5:16 pm

    Maha is 100% correct. This is the best outcome we can get in this hostage situation. We have to fight with the Dems we have not the Dems we wish we had. Each hostage situation has to be dealt with under the conditions in place at the time.

  13. c u n d gulag  •  Dec 8, 2010 @6:08 pm

    I was remiss yesterday and today in not bidding farewell to the great Elizabeth Edwards.
    Here, btw, maha, is AmericaNEOCLOWN Dr., don’t dare forget the DR.!, Donald Douglass’s take on her impending death:
    “The story’s trending at Memeorandum. And at ABC News, “Elizabeth Edwards Won’t Receive Anymore Cancer Treatment: John Edwards’ Joins Family at His Wife’s Side.” But I notice at her farewell statement an odd aspect to her “three saving graces.” She doesn’t list faith in God as one of them.”

    AmericaNEOCLOWN, maybe, like me, when she thought that people like you draw breathe while better’s die, she lost her faith in God.

    Elizabeth, I would have voted for you for President. Your death is not in vain. You moved millions with your courage and grace. You will be missed.

  14. Candide  •  Dec 8, 2010 @8:10 pm

    Gulag said:

    So, yeah, go ahead geniouses – primary Obama! And help lay the red carpet down for “SnowWhiteFlake Snookie” Sarah or one of the other dwarves.

    If I understand you correctly, you’re suggesting that it would be bad for a Democrat to present a primary challenge to Obama. And that such a challenge would usher in Sarah Pallid.

    I can’t say that I agree. Unless there is a miraculous economic recovery in the next two years (and I’m not expecting it), then Obama is political dead meat and the Rethugs will stomp him in 2012. Of course, it doesn’t help that the Rethugs will doing all they can to sabotage the economy for just this reason. Anyway, I see little chance that Obama will get re-elected in 2012, and if he was a decent chap, he’d decline to run because he wants to “spend more time” with his family. I don’t expect him to do that – like most presidents, his ego demands that he run for re-election.

    Look at what a disaster last month’s election was – many disillusioned Dems stayed home, and it was a big victory for the Rethugs. The disillusioned stayed home because they were upset with Obama, not necessarily with their congressional representatives. If Obama is the candidate in November 2012, expect a lot more disillusioned Dems to stay home.

    OK, it’s still too early to know what the state of the nation will be in 2012. Let’s hope against hope that there is a genuine recovery by then. But if not, a primary challenge may be our only chance against President Sarah Pallid and Vice-President “Grinch” Gingrich.

  15. maha  •  Dec 8, 2010 @10:00 pm

    Unless there is a miraculous economic recovery in the next two years (and I’m not expecting it), then Obama is political dead meat and the Rethugs will stomp him in 2012.

    If Obama is political dead meat because of a failed economy, it’s unlikely any Democrat, especially a progressive one, would do any better against a right-wing challenger. Don’t expect the Lone Ranger to ride in and save us.

    I can’t think of the last time a sitting president actually lost a primary challenge. Lyndon Johnson decided not to run in 1968, and Harry Truman decided not to run in 1952. Both years, the Republican candidate won. The historical pattern is that if a sitting president is very unpopular, the presidential candidate of the other party will win the election, even if the sitting president isn’t running. I can’t think of an exception to that.

    I believe you have to go back to the 19th century to find an example of a sitting president who sought re-election actually losing the nomination, but that was before candidates were chosen by popular vote.

    Anyway, the point is that if the Democratic base continues to kick Obama under the bus, they should not expect to elect another candidate in 2012. Historic precedent suggests it will be a Republican year.

  16. calling all toasters  •  Dec 8, 2010 @8:33 pm

    No no no. Just no.
    1) If this is such a good deal why are most Republicans on board already?
    2) A bunch of tax cuts and no needed spending is a defeat for the Democrats.
    3) Maybe the SS tax cut will only last until conditions are right for it to be restored. Not doing a really good job of getting rid of those formerly-denounced Bush tax cuts, are we?
    4) In exchange for giving the GOP everything they want, Obama was able to get “concessions” (e.g. unemployment extension) that allow the Republicans to not have to fight for their unpopular positions out in public.
    5) When it comes time to raise the debt ceiling, this budget-buster will increase their leverage in cutting every program under the sun.

    It is failure by Obama, failure in almost every possible way: as policy, as politics, as plain old common sense. Either the man is very stupid, or he’s not on the side he pretends to be on.

  17. maha  •  Dec 8, 2010 @9:44 pm

    1) If this is such a good deal why are most Republicans on board already?

    First off, I don’t think anyone is saying this is a “good” deal, just that it’s not a completely bad deal. And another fact is that a lot of the Right is against it.

    2) A bunch of tax cuts and no needed spending is a defeat for the Democrats.

    Paul Krugman thinks some parts of the deal will have a real stimulus effect. Parts of it are stupid, of course.

    3) Maybe the SS tax cut will only last until conditions are right for it to be restored. Not doing a really good job of getting rid of those formerly-denounced Bush tax cuts, are we?

    No, we aren’t, and I don’t think the Obama Administration has been tough enough on this issue.

    But to me, the big issue I have with your attitude is that you seem to assume that anything that isn’t entirely good, beautiful and pure must be evil, ugly and corrupted. And I cannot tell you how utterly sick I am of people who think that way.

    All kinds of bad shit could happen. Or not happen. Whatever. I hate simplistic, black-and-white thinking; I hate slippery slope arguments. You are reacting emotionally instead of logically, which to my mind makes YOU part of the problem. Please go chill out before you come back here. Thanks.

  18. Doug Hughes  •  Dec 8, 2010 @9:16 pm

    On the Social Security argument. I want SS fully funded for everyone who has put a dime into the system. Obama has not done anything to de-fund SS. Let’s get real.

    Assume that the economy is the biggest problem we are facing. I am getting the rough outline of the deal Obama made. I’m not sure I agree with it, but he negotiated a $120B stimulus, let’s pray that it’s enough of a bump in consumption to get hiring started. Obama could have stared down the GOP and won, which would have reduced the deficit – but THAT VICTORY WOULD NOT HAVE STIMULATED THE ECONOMY!

    The results of the 2012 election (for Congress) will turn on the state of the economy. If the economy improves, Obama made a good deal. Our political fortunes in 2012 will also turn around.

  19. Swami  •  Dec 8, 2010 @11:44 pm

    When it comes to Obama….He’s my horse if he never wins a race. Maybe it is emotional but he’s got qualities of character that I just don’t see in any other politician. Add to that the fact that Obama has had the biggest plate of shit handed to him in the history of Presidents, and he’s got a Repuglican opposition party that has openly avowed to destroy his Presidency at all costs. I won’t count him out just yet.

  20. allwarisbad  •  Dec 9, 2010 @1:04 am

    Democrats have been apoligising to the Republicans for the last 30 years, irrespective of whether they are in power or not. No philosopy to guide them – only money interests and fighting for gays/abortion. Our “tweeting-twat” is getting ready 🙂

  21. calling all toasters  •  Dec 9, 2010 @1:52 am

    the big issue I have with your attitude is that you seem to assume that anything that isn’t entirely good, beautiful and pure must be evil, ugly and corrupted.

    Maha–
    Sorry I don’t pass your attitude test. No need to worry about me posting (or reading) here any more. I don’t need insulting and incompetent personality profiling and I can get Obama cheerleaders anywhere on the Web.

  22. allwarisbad  •  Dec 9, 2010 @3:57 am

    Its all about the Washington Syndrome – statusquo has to be maintained otherwise media and all the interests around it are threatened. To hell with the rest of the country or the world. Washinton Press is so Sophist in nature that ancient Athens would marvel at it!

  23. Chief  •  Dec 9, 2010 @6:34 am

    Re: POTUS – he gave away too much, too early. Stick to your principles, don’t cave so quickly, take it closer to the brink.

    POTUS “hired” a bunch of advisors. POTUS is a really smart dude. His advisors are smart people. BUT, did he hire the right people? As opposed to his five predecessors, this POTUS has no (or virtually no) administrative experience.

    maha, I think (FWIW) that you are wrong initially and out-of-line eventually with the “slippery slope comment and argument. “Slippery slope” is just a red herring to distract from the essence of the commenters meaning.

  24. maha  •  Dec 9, 2010 @8:46 am

    “Slippery slope” is just a red herring to distract from the essence of the commenters meaning.

    No, the “commenters meaning” was nothing but a slippery slope argument, one that right wing bloggers are picking up and running with this morning. It’s hysteria, not rational thinking.

  25. c u n d gulag  •  Dec 9, 2010 @9:35 am

    I started ‘to thinking (which is always a dangerous thing),’ and I wonder if a lot of us folks on the left don’t suffer from something, which for lack of a better term, I’ll call “Bush Envy?”
    I’m proposing that Liberals who are like that want Obama to be the anti-Bush on the economy, general policies and war, but like Bush in his attitude and approach.
    W. didn’t give a good Goddamn about how the Dem’s, or the public , or really anyone, felt (OK, really Cheney, but W. was the talking puppet). And he acted like it. Like a dictator – that’s why I always refer to him as “Little Boots.” He used 9/11, the “Wars,” and security like cudgels to browbeat any and all Dem’s, other Liberals, and even any, and there were only a few, Rep’s who didn’t jump to go in lockstep. It was, “My way of the highway, you treasonous, terrorist-loving, cowardly traitor,” 24x7x365.
    Now, I’m about as far left as you can go, but I differ from the what I see in some people I read and hear in that I don’t look for Obama to have Bush’s approach or attitude. Yes, I want him to be strong and tough! But I don’t want a Liberal W. clone in that sense. And I think from what I see and read, what several very vehement bloggers and commenters (I don’t mean to create strawmen here, but they really are too numerous to mention) want subconsiously is a nice, environmentally, and economically friendy, anti-war tough-guy – Bush-like, if you please, who pushes legislators and people around until he gets what he wants. Since Republicans once did ‘my way or the highway,’ they feel like we should too. With Obama at the head.*
    If you think I’m wrong, please tell me.

    Obamabot comments on the way. 3… 2… 1… INCOMING!!!

    *And if you notice the rhetoric coming from the right for the past two years, you’ll see that that IS their meme. It’s Freudian projection for that ‘my way or the highway’ approach “Little Boots” had -“Obama is ramming X down our throats!” “He never consults us!” “He makes arbitrary and universal decision!” “He’s a Fascist!” “He’s a Dictator!” Etc., etc., etc., and so forth… I’m guilty of saying those exact same things about Bush. Take a look in the archives here, and that’ll prove it. And I wasn’t the only one. And now, it comes back around. And the Republicans are so much better at meme’s and messages than Democrats.

  26. Steve M.  •  Dec 9, 2010 @11:37 am

    Barbara, I really admire you for continuing to bang heads this way. I think your assessment of what’s wrong in this deal and what’s defensible and even positive is exactly right — but I just don’t have the stomach you have for continuing to argue with people who can describe no plausible scenario that will get us to a better outcome, who are willing to sacrifice an unemployment insurance extension and the middle-class tax cuts on the altar of purity. (No, “Just fight back for once!!!” is not a plausible strategy for turning this around, not without filling in, y’know, all the details of just how you’d do that.)

  27. Bill Bush  •  Dec 9, 2010 @12:05 pm

    Just heard on NPR that the extension of spending bill coming up is being threatened by some D’s, R’s and anti-war legislators. So the merry-go-round continues. 11:02 EST. Prediction: World will not end.

  28. maha  •  Dec 9, 2010 @12:16 pm

    Steve M.: What concerns me at the moment is that much of the leftie blogosphere seems gripped by a herd mentality that disallows the possibility that Barack Obama is anything but a total disaster.

    It’s been true in some parts since the Dem primaries in 2008 — one cannot say anything even mildly ambivalent about Barack Obama without being called an “Obamabot” or a “cheerleader.” That showed up on the thread here, big time.

    Once a herd has invested emotionally in a particular direction , it’s nearly impossible to change its course. Everything Barack Obama does from now on will be cast in the same light, no matter what it actually is.

    And it’s a terrible irony that people who want to “fight back” are all but conceding both the White House and Congress to the GOP in 2012.

  29. c u n d gulag  •  Dec 9, 2010 @1:00 pm

    maha,
    How much do you Blog Group-think may have to do with it? In my opinion, as I wrote earlier, blogs are a new medium, or a new voice, for criticism.
    On some sites, I’m blasted as an ‘Obamabot.’ On others, I’m chided for not devoting myself with enough obedience to what is his, for lack of a better term, “Cult of Personality.”
    And, of course, I gave up years ago trying to comment on rightie sites, because that’s truly almost 100% Blog Herd-think, and no dissenting voices need stain their comment thread with facts or logic or even progressive opinions without being called every bad name in the book, and some new ones, too. I tried to stick around and point the flaws in their outlook, but gave up, as I’m sure many others have.
    I didn’t really want to names Liberal sites where all of the bloggers and commenters are blasting Obama, people can see for themselves. But, do read the comments and see for yourselves.
    Lefties can also fall into a herd mentality, as maha just said. It’s bad enough righties follow some of these ‘Obama is a disaster meme’s,’ it’s a whole ‘nother ballgame if the left chirps along.

  30. c u n d gulag  •  Dec 9, 2010 @1:14 pm

    Never mind…
    Me thinks I hath sayeth that last comment before. Please moveth along..

  31. jamie  •  Dec 9, 2010 @1:30 pm

    See the Paul Krugman blog today

  32. maha  •  Dec 9, 2010 @2:03 pm

    See the Paul Krugman blog today

    A link would have been nice. Krugman has published two posts so far today, both of them about the tax cut extension deal. They are:

    Block That Metaphor

    and

    December 2011

    In neither one does he predict that the payroll tax holiday will lead to the downfall of Social Security.

    He is ambivalent about the tax cut deal, as am I. He believes the payroll tax holiday, unemployment benefit extension, etc., will provide a genuine boost to the economy, but probably not as much as some other economists project. He also thinks the stimulating effects will stop when the payroll tax is reinstated in 2012. He is concerned about the politics of the tax extension and thinks Obama will get played by the GOP at the end of 2011, who will have him in a similar “hostage” situation to today’s.

    Will Obama be tempted to make more concessions to the GOP a year from now to enact more “stimulus” legislation? Will the GOP be able to demagogue tax issues in the 2012 campaign (and is the Pope Catholic?)? Will this deal make the 2012 election more difficult for Obama? Krugman says yes, these things are possible, but of course it depends on how the economy progresses in 2011.

    Did I leave anything out? None of this contradicts what I wrote. But I repeat, Krugman says nothing about Social Security being put in danger by the deal, and he assumes that the payroll tax holiday, which he calls part of the “Democratic” parts of the deal, will provide some stimulus to the economy. The question is, how much? And Krugman does not address how much worse it might be for Obama in 2012 if there were no stimulus legislation at all.

    This is pretty much in the ball park of what I’ve been saying. Did you have a point?

  33. kathleen  •  Dec 9, 2010 @1:36 pm

    Swami: I love you! I am one hundred percent with you.

    Gulag: I so admire your honesty and always look forward to your reasoning, you are a breath of fresh air. And, as a lifelong student of history also, I always know and enjoy where you are coming from.

    Joan: You always speak for me, you are a kindred soul, thanks so much.

    Maha: Keep up the great work. I missed reading the blogs for a week due to a lot of extra familial activity..who else do I know would sit here and read not only every blog I missed, but also every comment made on each. You are a star to me!

  34. c u n d gulag  •  Dec 9, 2010 @1:51 pm

    Kathleen,
    Thank you for your kind words. I trust the family is OK?

  35. joanr16  •  Dec 9, 2010 @2:11 pm

    So the merry-go-round continues. 11:02 EST. Prediction: World will not end.

    Bill Bush – wonderful! (I did need that; I was getting a bit dizzy.)

    Kathleen, thanks from me too. I hope you’re busy in a good way.

  36. jugheadjack  •  Dec 9, 2010 @3:19 pm

    Cund its alot easier to get your memos and messages out when you have the entire msm repeating every thing you say as gospel.

  37. Ian  •  Dec 9, 2010 @3:29 pm

    Hmmm … I should have realized I should just come back here and read in order to get some actual sane commentary, both from the blogger and bloggees. Thanks, Maha, for reaffirming my forlorn hope that not everybody on the left side of the ‘sphere has gone buig-nuts insane on the topic of Obama.

    One quibble … I will agree with you that Obama spent too much time early on trying to be conciliatory to the right, leading to a stimulous much smaller than it should have been, among other things … but I think his idea was that part oif his job as president was to try to walk back a bit the kind of ultra-confrontational ultra-idealogical battle lines that had been shaping up in the house and senate. He tried to kick-start the old lets-all-work-together-for-the-common-good attitude that used to, occasionally, in part, exist by negotiating when he didn’t strictly have to.

    I think he was probably correct that this is a job that needs doing, and that if current trends continue it can only lead to complete breakdown of the government, so I think it was a laudable effort, even if it had some fairly serious consequences. I am not sure anybody could have foreseen just exactly how far the Republicans would be willing to go to see this president fail at any price to the country.

    And, for one commenter above … IF it is true that economic conditions in ’12 would prevent Obama from getting elected, those same economic positions would prevent ANY democrat from getting elected. The only thing you’d gain from a new candidate is the LOSS of the extremely powerful incumbant effect. So, if Obama is doomed to lose, there is absolutely nothing that we can do about it. I sincerely doubt Obama is in fact doomned to lose, though.

    -me

  38. maha  •  Dec 9, 2010 @4:44 pm

    Ian — Yes, Obama looks like a really weak candidate, until you consider anyone the GOP is likely to send against him. I think he has a good shot at re-election, barring some unforeseen calamity.

  39. moonbat  •  Dec 9, 2010 @4:07 pm

    OT, check out Evolution of the Blogger. Click on the graphic to make it readable.

  40. c u n d gulag  •  Dec 9, 2010 @5:21 pm

    Obama is currently still polling well against SnowWhiteSnookie Sarah and the rest of the dwarves.
    Now, Barbour, and some other Governors who might run have’s been included that I know of.
    And that’s why primarying Obama makes no sense. In ’80, a Lot of Democrats, from what I remember, felt comfortable with having Teddy primary Carter because they thought Reagan was a joke, and hostages and the economy wouldn’t be enough to have the country vote in a radical ex-Governor and ex B Movie star.
    Yeah, that worked out well. You want to put a start time to this countries end times, you could easily start either in the summer or November of 1980.

  41. uncledad  •  Dec 9, 2010 @5:49 pm

    Well I got me other hip replaced so more fun and web on my phone. All I have to say is Obama is an idiot he has walked right into a trap, now his people are argueing that without taxcuts we will have a double dip, what a fucking imbecile, I’m done.

  42. allwarisbad  •  Dec 9, 2010 @6:00 pm

    Maha – The “Purity” label is what put me off the most. There is nothing pure about asking the top 2% their due share for the country. When there was sanity in this country the rich paid much higher rates because they understood that to grow and sustain the country, which had helped them become successful, it was both in their interest and patriotic to do so.
    The last 30 years is the age of “easy money”, where honest work was no longer the way to be succesful. It is now the gambling den of the stock market which decides your net-worth. Thus outsourcing etc. has become the way. Do not do any real work yourself, just Finance the world and you will be rich! Thus people with money, made in this illicit manner, no longer have any understanding or incentive to look at the larger picture of the country and the world. They are stuck in the gambling den and cannot see a world around falling apart …
    America really lacks patriots in this Dollar-Democracy.

  43. maha  •  Dec 9, 2010 @6:34 pm

    There is nothing pure about asking the top 2% their due share for the country.

    Of course not, but you’re changing the subject, and please spare me your sanctimony. I’m as opposed to the extension of the tax cuts to the rich as anyone. I’ve blogged here many times that the tax cuts are killing the U.S. economically. I mean, exactly what part of “Extending all of the Bush tax cuts is ruinous to our long-term economic health” did you not understand?

    The issue is not whether extending the tax cuts is bad. It is very bad. The issue is that some parts of the bill are not so bad — the payroll tax holiday being an example. Yet one is not allowed to say that any part of this compromise is not so bad without being called an “Obamabot” or a cheerleader for Obama.

    The herd mentality gripping a large part of the Left Blogosphere these days is confounding dispassionate analysis of everything. To you galloping along in the thundering herd, everything is entirely Good or entirely Evil. I’m not allowed to say that the payroll tax holiday could do some good without being accused of wanting to give tax cuts to the rich. What you just did, in other words. That’s utterly illogical and tells me you are not THINKING, just reacting emotionally to the issue.

    Again, I don’t need your speeches about the rich paying their fair share. I’ve made those speeches myself. What is driving me absolutely up a wall is this hysterical reaction to stating an opinion that something is not absolutely bad just because some part of it is bad.

  44. joel hanes  •  Dec 9, 2010 @6:48 pm

    Maha

    Long time reader, but this response sticks in my craw :

    you seem to assume that anything that isn’t entirely good, beautiful and pure must be evil, ugly and corrupted. And I cannot tell you how utterly sick I am of people who think that way.

    I am among those who believe that Obama got gamed on this one, that FICA taxes will never be allowed to go back to “normal” levels, and that this is an intentional and very clever attack on SS by the Republicans, which will probably work.

    It’s been nice.

    Adieu

  45. Swami  •  Dec 9, 2010 @7:30 pm

    These are the times that try men’s soul’s? 🙂

  46. Chief  •  Dec 9, 2010 @7:58 pm

    maha,

    I refer to your comment: Obama looks like a really weak candidate.

    No sports metaphor. I have been a first line, second line and third line supervisor during my working days, responsible for the effective and efficient spending of some millions of dollars. And as part of my responsibilities, I supervised, at one time, 39 subordinates.

    I say this not to brag but to establish bona fides. There have been times when I had to, figuratively at least, fight for, stand up for the people that did the hands on work. I did not win every argument with my supervisor (CO or XO) but I had and maintained the respect of those that I supervised. They knew that right or wrong I would go to bat for them.

    This is the quality that I see as missing in POTUS. I do not see him going to bat for not his base but for the middle class, for the family making $40,00 a year. And I find this distressing.

    My best short example of POTUS not fighting for his people is Dawn Johnson – twisting in the wind 14 months as nominee to head OLC.

    It is obvious that I am not talking policy. I am talking perceptions.

  47. Bill Bush  •  Dec 9, 2010 @8:27 pm

    I see that DADT repeal has failed for today. AndI emphasize FOR TODAY. This promises to be what I think Fidel used to call a “special period” whenever things got tight on the island. Would love to vote some legislators off ours.

  48. uncledad  •  Dec 10, 2010 @3:09 am

    I don’t see the payroll tax holiday as a positive change it is just as a previous commenter suggested a trap. When the time comes to go back to previous levels the republicants will say we can’t raise taxes now (rebubl$icants don’t understand the concept of temporary). We need fundamental policy changes to end the wallmart age, Obama has proven to me that he aint that guy. I can’t defend him anymore, I don’t think he is so stupid to be fooled by these basic divide and smash tactics so I can only conclude that this is what he wanted. He sent his man out and threatened his own parrty with future economic blame if this “package” is not passed, I don’t think even Bubba would have pulled this stunt.

  49. maha  •  Dec 10, 2010 @8:34 am

    I don’t see the payroll tax holiday as a positive change it is just as a previous commenter suggested a trap. When the time comes to go back to previous levels the republicants will say we can’t raise taxes now

    But the payroll tax holiday doesn’t primarily benefit wealthy people; the ones who really need it are lower-income. Further, Krugman and others believe it really will stimulate the economy, so if they choose to extend it into 2012 that’s good for Obama. So they won’t do it.

    Really, people, get a grip.

  50. c u n d gulag  •  Dec 10, 2010 @10:18 am

    Look, if you want to see policiticians motivations, “Follow Da Money!”
    -The RepubliConfederates won’t allow an open attempt to stimulate the economy. It helps them in 2012.
    -Obama’s trying to get a “Stealth Stimulus” out there – to try to move the economy forward.
    -The RepubliConfederates want tax cuts extended for the richest.
    -Obama’s trying to get money into the hands of the ones who WILL spend it – those making under $100,000.
    -The RepubliConfederates, after getting their extension of the tax cuts, will not allow the economy to move forward until after they control the WH. And if that’s 2016, or 2020, well, let the nation sink.
    As maha said, that SS holiday will be allowed to die at the end of 2011. Yes, it’s another wound in “The Death of a Thousand Cuts” The RepubliConfederates are trying to inflict on the safety net. But is anyone naive enough to think that it’s this holiday that will sink SS? Kids, you’re worried about a deckchair while The RepubliConfederates are preparing an iceberg for this Titanic. And a missile attack if the iceberg fails.

    So, with no Win/Win possible, due to the perfidity of the Democrats in the Senate, and, of course, The RepubliConfederate Party, Obama chose to go for a LOSE/LOSE! We lose something – the increase on the top 2% (but gain UI for millions), they lose something – a “Stealth Stimulus” that may goose the economy forward (but gain the all important tax break for the 2%).
    I think Obama may have chosen the country over re-election and Party.
    The RepubliConfederates have chosen the Party over the country, and see that as a means for re-election, and a RepubliConfederate in the WH.

    And for Demcrats to be fighting amongst themselves after sitting on their asses for 2 years (especially, the Senate – Ms. Pelosi did her job for the most part, thank you!), with talk of primarying the President, we’re paving the way for a RepubliConfederate Congress and Executive. That may make 2001-2009 like lke the “Good Old Days,” and 2009-2010 look like “Happy Days.”
    Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it…

  51. s  •  Dec 10, 2010 @1:17 pm

    That’s right, it doesn’t benefit the wealthy because it is cut out at higher income levels. There is a limit and anything you make above that doesn’t have fica taken out at all.

  52. s  •  Dec 10, 2010 @1:20 pm

    On the extension on tax breaks for 2 years… why could they not extend unemployment for the same length of time? It seems to me the struggling need unemployment more than the rich need tax breaks.

  53. ino shinola  •  Dec 10, 2010 @1:43 pm

    Really, people, get a grip????

    Would you care to bet a beer (or whatever), on what happens to the payroll tax holiday when it’s set to expire? I seem to remember some tax cuts back in the distant past that were supposed to expire after a few years, though my memory is a little fuzzy (all those anti-depressants).

  54. c u n d gulag  •  Dec 10, 2010 @1:53 pm

    s,
    In the RepubliConfederate mind, you are unemployed because you deserved it. You were slothful. And so, to continue UI benefits only encourages the slothful to more sloth. And the rich are not slothful, they are rich because they work hard (unlike that mother/father of 3, working 3 jobs – as “Little Boots” said, “How American!”), so they deserve their tax cuts, and those cuts will shower jobs unto the masses. Or something stupid like that.
    Besides, the RepubliConfederates would block anything that didn’t help the rich.

  55. uncledad  •  Dec 10, 2010 @4:16 pm

    “But the payroll tax holiday doesn’t primarily benefit wealthy people”

    It accomplishes the goal of bankrupting SSI at an accelerated rate. It also is gonna make Obama look like he’s raising taxes right before an election (“there you go again”, I can hear it know)

    “Krugman and others believe it really will stimulate the economy”

    Maybe, but we don’t need more stimulus, we need fundamental change, stimulating a decaying economy only postpones the inevitable. We needed stimulus two years ago, we need change now. You know Maha I have defended Obama as much as most but this is a bridge too far for me. I really think he has fouled this thing up, the man is arguing in public that if we don’t extend tax cuts for the wealthy we are going to have a double dip recession, he sounds like a fucking alarmist FAUX news supply sider, an overnight transformation, what the hell happened? If this is how he negotiates with the republicant’s now what he give them when they actually control the House?

    “Really, people, get a grip”

    I’ll not be supporting a president who freezes the pay of middle class federal workers one week, and then cuts a deal to give away 1 trillion in tax cuts to the richies the next, I’m done.

    On a lighter note if any of you’ all ever get a hip replacement make sure they don’t skimp on the anesthetic, I woke up 30 minutes into mine on Tuesday to the sound of saws, drills and hammers, no bullshit, it was a bit unnerving!

  56. maha  •  Dec 10, 2010 @5:13 pm

    we don’t need more stimulus

    Yes, we do. Desperately.

  57. Ian  •  Dec 10, 2010 @7:43 pm

    SSI is not in trouble or in danger. Never has been. Even the most pessimistic forecasts have it running out of money in something like 2046 (that’s a guess at a dimly remembered fact from several years ago, YMMV), and more realistic forecasts show it being self-sufficient indefinitely.

    Even so, there is a simple, easy, mostly painless way to completely remove what little doubt remains. Simply raise the cap by $50-100k. Or, just remove the cap entirely, which would allow the actual rate to be reduced way WAY below the current one, meaning a huge tax cut for nearly everybody.

    No, there is no way in hell either of those ideas will fly now, or even anytime in the near to mid future. However, if you believe that there will not come one single opportunity in the next 30 to 40 years to get that little thing done, you have way less faith in humanity than even I would think is warrented. And my faith in humanity gland is nearly microscopic these days.

    -me



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