A mere nine years ago, 12 Democratic senators voted for the current tax rates, as well as for a complete phaseout of the estate tax. Twelve! By contrast, ObamaCare and the $800 billion "stimulus" package secured votes from zero Republican senators and zero Republican senators, respectively. The media call them the "Bush tax cuts" or the "Bush-era tax cuts" -- but never the "bipartisan" Bush-era tax cuts. Had President Barack Obama crossed The Aisle to attract 12 Republican Senate votes, the Commission to Chisel Obama's Face on Mount Rushmore would be interviewing stonemasons.
When did lifting the top marginal income tax rate paid by the rich -- currently at 35 percent -- become a matter of morality, justice and decency?
To the agenda items supposedly of concern to "the little guy," add another: maligning the rich as wicked, greedy and undeserving. Stick this on the left-wing list-of-grave-issues, along with global warming/climate change, cap and trade, union card check, "investing in green jobs of the future," renewable biofuels, overturning "don't ask, don't tell," gay marriage, the DREAM Act, suing Arizona for doing something about the problem of illegal aliens, and the First Lady's war on fat kids.
The tax rate deal worked out between President Obama and the Republican leadership keeps -- not lowers -- the current income tax rates for two years. It exempts from taxes estates worth less than $5 million -- after which a 35 percent tax kicks in. Horrors! Republicans didn't even consider lower tax rates or pushing for a deal to dramatically lower spending. Ending, or at least suspending, ObamaCare wasn't even an afterthought.
Obama, in exchange, gets extensions of unemployment compensation and a payroll tax "holiday" for employees. He also gets a slew of what he slickly calls "tax cuts" -- tax credits, actually, or welfare money for those who pay nothing in federal income taxes.
And what of the "cost" of keeping the same rate for the rich? Before and immediately after the November GOP takeover of the House and pickups in the Senate, Obama railed about the alleged unaffordability of giving the rich a "$700 billion" tax break. But this is over 10 years. That comes out to $70 billion per year, or about 5 percent of the estimated $1.3 trillion annual deficit.
All this end-of-year tax-dealing has the left-left of the left acting like prisoners drumming their tin cups on the cafeteria tables and yelling, "Attica! Attica! Attica!"
"Odious," read a New York Times editorial on the tax deal. Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., joined those calling Obama the compromiser-in-chief: He went "from zero to compromise in 3.5 seconds." MSNBC's Keith Olbermann said the deal makes Obama not only unelectable but un-nominatable. He pleaded with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to challenge Obama in 2012.
Self-described socialist and quasi-Democrat Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont took to the floor, where he spent 8 1/2 hours berating the deal. Sanders slammed greed, billionaires and income inequality. One of his greatest concerns was that of children who grow up poor. What does this have to do with a 35 percent income tax rate? In 8 1/2 hours Sanders said nothing about personal responsibility, choices or the degree to which government subsidizes harmful behavior. Not one word.
Child poverty is almost exclusively a function of young -- late teens and 20s -- mostly uneducated, disproportionately minority women having children out of wedlock, as well as the young, mostly uneducated, disproportionately minority men who impregnate them. To avoid poverty, as UCLA public policy professor James Q. Wilson explained, do three things: Graduate from high school; don't have a child before the age of 20; and get married before having children.
Sanders' soliloquy served as yet another teachable moment for Democrats' most dependable constituents: black voters. Is the biggest issue facing "the black community" that of the rich getting richer or the widespread damage done by irresponsible breeding?
Rattled by the intraparty uprising, Obama trotted out former President Bill Clinton during a press session to remind his party how to tack toward the center when voters send leftists a message. Clinton effectively said: "If you don't like this deal, wait 'til the GOP becomes the House majority next month. Then you'll really be unhappy." Clinton noted approvingly that conservative pundit Charles Krauthammer, "a brilliant man," thinks the GOP got hoodwinked. It wound up supporting another large wealth redistributionist "stimulus" -- despite the pledge to the tea party-minded that it would not.
The whole Obama-to-Clinton handoff was freakish. Obama even left the room, allowing Clinton to fly solo and take questions for 30 minutes. Imagine what would have been said had President George H.W. Bush, during a time of political difficulty, pulled a pupil/teacher and brought out Ronald Reagan -- and then dashed off. "Wimp." "Not ready for prime time." "Who's your daddy?"
But Clinton got it right. This deal -- or much of it -- will survive. Obama is the political winner. What about the nation?