President Obama, Prove Me Wrong

Now that the House has passed middle-class tax cuts, this is President Obama’s chance to change the conversation. Will he take it?

Readers of this blog might have guessed that at times I get a little dyspeptic at our Commander-in-Chief.  Well, here’s his chance to prove me wrong.

Under the leadership of outgoing Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who will go down in history as one of the best Speakers ever, the Democratic majority has just passed a bill extending the Bush tax cuts only up to the first $250,000 of income.  All Americans get a tax cut, but the wealthy do not get the extra, budget-busting tax cut that Dubya gave them.

So will Americans see the benefits of this?  No, because Senate Republicans along with such as Steaming Piece of Senator Kent Conrad will probably filibuster it.  But at least President Obama can make them pay for it and change the national conversation.

Now, today, Obama should hold a press conference demanding Senate action.  Then he should take the show on the road, going to, say Massachusetts, and Maine, and Ohio, demanding that the Republicans allow the Senate to vote on this plan.  He’s got the biggest megaphone in the country.  He can fill arenas.  Now, today, he needs to ask:

Why are the Republicans intent on raising your taxes?  Why are they holding your tax cut hostage so that they can reward billionaires?

For the rest of the session, Obama needs to elevate this issue to highest possible pitch.  This is an opportunity to damage the Republican brand: Democrats have cut your taxes and the Republicans only care about millionaires.  The only reason why the GOP is taking him for a ride here is that they and he assume that if the tax cuts are not extended, the public will blame him, and not them.

The Democrats’ fear is that the public won’t get it; the Republicans’ fear is that they will get it.  Obama can change that calculus.  That would even be change I can believe in.

Hello?  Anybody home?

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

16 thoughts on “President Obama, Prove Me Wrong”

  1. So the President of the United States has a personal duty to explain himself and his administration to you? Good luck.

  2. Right now, the best outcome would be that the Republicans maintain their opposition to extending a portion of the Bush tax cuts, they all expire on schedule as originally legislated and when the incoming Congress tries to bring them back a filibuster in the Senate prevents a vote. Harry Reid shrugs and says it takes 60 votes in the Senate to pass anything.

    You know that Obama actually cut taxes last year and in the midterms the Republicans successfully attacked him for raising taxes. If he's going to be attacked for raising taxes whether he raised them or not, he might as well watch them being raised and get the revenue.

  3. So the President of the United States has a personal duty to explain himself and his administration to you the base who got him elected?

    See if that's not more accurate.

  4. If Nancy Pelosi is so freaking great why doesn't she provide an omnibus bill containing money for unemployment for the next five years, tax rate breaks for those under $250,000 per year only, a cut off of all funds for any overseas adventures by the military after one year (including all bases not located in the US) and a resolution for the impeachment of President Obama.

    The Republicans will not be able to decide whether to s**t or go blind.

    If Nancy Pelosi actually had negotiating skills that benefited me and not her rich husband or her personal wealth, then I might have some respect for her. I have none. I will contribute to anyone who challenges her in the next election – Republican, Independent, Democrat, Green or anyone else. Pelosi and Reid are a huge part of the problems and will never be any part of the solutions. DINOs to the core. Also, filthy rich from politics.

  5. First, the president is not "our Commander-in-Chief". (I'm not in the military, you're not in the military and, I'm assuming, the overwhelming majority of readers of this site aren't in the military.)

    Second, what in the world would the president gain from proving you wrong? You've already demonstrated conclusively that you are a sucker. Come 2012, the "Oh my gawd, the Republicans are crazy, crazy I tell you!" argument will almost certainly induce you to support him once again, albeit with some reluctance.

    At what point will an intelligent person like you accept that the best indication of intention is outcome? The president is not weak, is not a poor negotiator, is not constrained by the Senate (ok, he is some, but not nearly to the extent his supporters would have us believe), is not naive, is not hampered by his inexperienced, and so on ad nauseum. He is, generally, achieving precisely the outcomes he desires to achieve. As Aristotle once wrote, "we are what we repeatedly do." (Of course, I would, in the case of Mr. Obama, paraphrase the second sentence of this quotation differently.)

    So, repeat after me, the president is a conservative. The sooner you accept this, the sooner your dyspepsia, not to mention your sanity, will be soothed, and the sooner you can begin working towards real change of the type I think you expected in 2008.

  6. I agree with the sentiment, but I think the better plan might be to let the Democrats let the Republicans kill it, let all of the rates go up, and then use the State of the Union Speech to demand tax changes like the ones that were just passed by the House. The Republicans would either join with him, giving him a victory, even if they shared in it, or they'd go on record as opposing the president on a popular issue for no good reason in a much more high profile way.

    I know I place too much faith in his ability to think long-term, but one of these days, this sort of strategy will become clear.

  7. If anyone goes on the road to explain the Bush tax cuts to unsuspecting Americans, it should be Bernie Sanders.

  8. Pretty funny, guys. I assume this is all tongue-in-cheek.

    You seem to forget that the GOP just conducted a very successful election campaign on the basis of keeping ALL the tax rates where they are. If Dems want to play hard ball and let all taxes rise simply to screw upper income job providers, as a registered Republican, I say please, please don't throw me into that briar patch!!

    On the other hand, if any of you guys really cared a whit about the economy, you would know you can't really do that. That's why I repeat (yet again) that after the show votes are over and done with, Congress will pass, and the President will sign a two or three year extension of all the current rates, and a one year extension of the AMT in exchange for an extension of the 99 week maximum unemployment insurance period and the tax credits that were part of the stimulus deal. It's as good as done. If and when the economy recovers, everyone will claim credit.

  9. "upper income job providers"

    Those would include the folks, who caused the global financial crisis?

    The greedy rich are destroying the country; it is past time to rein them in, big-time.

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