Yinfo logo

Check out the Y Info channel on DTV 12.3, Comcast 258, FiOS 473
This 24/7 news and information channel features a thought-provoking lineup of regional, national and global programs, including BBC World News, Charlie Rose, Washington Week, Keystone Chronicles and Foreign Exchange. More information »


 




The cowardly scions

Friday, September 24th, 2010



You know that famous movie scene, when the Cowardly Lion quivers and quakes in the presence of the purportedly Great and Powerful Oz, and finally he flees in terror down the hall, and hurls himself head first through a window? Need a reminder?

What a perfect metaphor for today’s Democratic party.

The cowardly scions of the party’s Capitol Hill majority announced yesterday that they will flee in terror from one of their own signature campaign issues – tax cuts for the middle-class, not for the rich – an abject surrender that will give Democratic voters a brand new reason to stay home on midterm election day. The party’s congressional leaders fear that if they staged House and Senate votes on this issue prior to the election, oooooo, the Republicans might say some mean things about them in TV ads.

If the Democrats had the requisite guts to stand up for their own convictions (just as the GOP does all the time), they would pay no attention to the smoke and clamor orchestrated by the man behind the curtain. In this gutsy alternative universe, Democrats would craft a simple, repeatable message – something like, “We support the extension of tax cuts for the middle-class; the Republicans support more tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.” Then they’d schedule those House and Senate votes, and force the Republicans to stand up for the millionaires and billionaires.

The Republicans would naturally block the middle-class cuts, insisting that no such bill should proceed unless the rich got the same bounty. But so what if they did? The Republicans would then be on record with a vote that thwarts new tax relief for the average Joe, and the Democrats would be able to show their base that they battled on the issue all the way to the floor.

But a party can’t be bold when it’s folded in a fetal position.

Apparently, a few dozen politically vulnerable Democratic congressmen, running for re-election in swing states and districts, are afraid that if the party went to the wall on this tax issue, the GOP would run nasty TV ads. And that fear was enough of a reason for Democratic leaders to cave.

Democrats live in perpetual fear of being tagged as tax-hikers in TV ads. The GOP claims, for instance, that the cancellation of Bush tax cuts for the rich would hurt small businesses. That’s actually a phony assertion – because tax experts say that only three percent of small-business taxpayers are in the rich-income brackets – but Democrats, being Democrats, have zero faith in their power to refute. Nor do they seem to realize – despite years of cruel experience – that the Republicans will run nasty and deceptive attack ads regardless of whether the Democrats stand up for themselves or not.

Here’s the essential difference between the two parties: In 2001, President Bush and congressional Republicans pushed hard for big tax cuts despite having no mandate from the American people. Bush had just lost the popular vote in the ’00 election, the Republicans had lost congressional seats in that election, and the early ’01 polls reported that people were skeptical about Bush’s tax plan (according to Gallup, only 41 percent wanted the Senate to pass the plan, and roughly 75 percent wanted the plan to give more benefits to lower-income taxpayers). Yet the GOP hewed to its convictions anyway.

By contrast, the current Democrats control both chambers, and they’re on the upside of a winning campaign issue. A late-August Newsweek poll reported that only 38 percent of Americans want to extend the tax cuts for the rich; Gallup puts that figure at 37 percent; CNN, 31 percent. And yet they’re too scared to take the tax fight to those chambers,  even with the wind at their backs, and give their own grassroots supporters a reason to vote.

Heck, they’re too scared to even give their own beleaguered candidates an issue to run on. Witness this cry of frustration from Pennsylvania senatorial candidate Joe Sestak, who said in a statement late yesterday, “This is no time to shy away from this fight….We were elected to fight for ordinary Americans, and this is the moment when we prove we can fulfill that public trust….We cannot afford to kick the can down the road. Let’s stand up and say ‘enough is enough.’”

But a party can’t stand up for itself if it lacks what the Cowardly Lion called “duh noive.” Unless or until the Democrats finally get the nerve, they don’t deserve to be king of the forest.


47 Comments

  • tom - wilmington de says:

    The Dept of Homeland Security is an umbrella organization, and all the agencies under it still operate somewhat autonomously. All the heads of DHS, as well as the Director of National Intelligence (another post we can delete) say there is redundancy in these agencies, and should be cut. Maybe not eliminate them entirely, but review them, make more clearly defined paths of responsibility, and streamline them. Next, we get pension reform. Do away with pensions for all new hires, give them 403(b)/401(k) plans. Offer all those under 40 the option of keeping their current pension balance (which will remain frozen) or receiving a lump sum to be rolled into the new retirement plan. All those 40 and over but less than 20 years service get the same choice. All those 40 and over with more than 20 years of service automaticall keep their pension with contributions continuing, but can contribute to the new retiement plan IF they roll their current pension balance over to it. Current retirees/those already eligible to retire have no changes made to their plans. That would save billions. Oh, and since there are 250,000 more federal workers now than there were on Jan 19, 2009, we have a hiring freeze…no layoffs, just reduce through attrition/retirements.

    • Steve says:

      Tom, the other thing we need to do is ensure Health Savings Accounts and high-deductible plans become the norm across government workers. They should also be highly encouraged in the private markets. These plans actually make a difference in the cost curve because it gives consumers more line of sight to the real costs of getting coverage and it fully funds preventative care (and it pre-dates ObamaCare). A lot of folks just plop down their co-pay and get the gold-plated treatment for every little ache and pain. That’s not how you reduce costs in health care.

  • tom - wilmington de says:

    jti, your question “what would you cut” is a bogus question. That is what liberals always ask when the idea of cutting spending is proposed, yet liberals who also agree we have a debt and deficit problem never offer their own solutions. I suppose your debt/deficit solution is to just raise taxes. Well, what taxes would you raise? Here’s a little food for thought about the extension of the Bush tax cuts is that the $700 Billion over ten years Obama says we cannot afford for extending the top two rates… he is going to spend that money, not use it for deficit/debt reduction. And the middle class extension of $3 Trillion over ten years…can we afford to borrow that money? What taxes would you, jti, raise to offset that costs, since Obama in his budget proposal states that any tax cuts need to be offset by spending cuts/tax hikes. That is why the “Small Business Bill” just sent to the president is deficit neutral, it raises taxes on energy companies to offer bailouts to community banks. So, oh omniscient one (that is you, jti), what taxes would you raise to bring down the deficit and reduce out debt, since you seem to have an answer to every spending cut proposed.

    • mw56 says:

      I would also like jti to explain how the tax increases will lower the debt since the tax increase is estimated to bring in $3 to $3.5 trillion over the next 10 year. While the estimated interest payments on the debt over the next 10 years is $5 trillion.

      • swedesboromike says:

        That’s the worst part about all this, is that it is grounded in the left’s view of what is fair or not fair. If tax increases lead to a worse economy they could find themselves with less revenue to the treasury, not more. I think it has more to do with punishing people with money as much as they can. And trust me, there will be no end to it until they get rates at 95%.

        • Steve says:

          Exactly, those evil rich folks are used as a piggy bank for ever expanding government. The problem is the more you tax this group of folks, the more elusive the theoretical new revenues become.

          Repeat after me: Higher rates do NOT necessarily lead to higher revenues!

  • JimR says:

    Tom, $250K is pretty well off in Montco,PA. But it’s really not rich in terms of the tax level. A person with a decent small business (with a 70 hr work week, payroll to meet, benefits to fret over, customers who are slow to pay,and lawyers to fight with) is not in the same class as a CEO of a Big Pharma company making $20M/yr. This attempt at ‘classism’ by the Dems is nuts.

  • swedesboromike says:

    Jti- you said ” Enough of the “small gov’t B.S.” What are you advocating and what would you suppport cutting? Be careful now, you may be questioned on your answer and may have to support it to some other reader/posters. So, who wants to start?”………………… Remember when NBC Nightly News used to do the segment ” the fleecing of America ” ?? Maybe you could get some ideas from that. Not to pick on you but I am hearing this manta from the left more often of ” what would you cut “.. Then they sit there as if they’ve discovered gold or more made some massive profound statement. How about combining some federal departments and making federal workers take a few less holidays for starters. How about eliminating some federal departments. Perhaps there could be some savings at the defense department. Perhaps a little less foreign aid. Perhaps a few less research grants for global warming studies. Or how about this. This will save us 2 trillion in a snap. Repeal Prescription Drug and the Affordable care act.

    • jti says:

      First to MWs 4:31 Post – The dept of education was established in 1867 by Andrew Jackson. It was downgraded in 1868 by Congress to an office and over the years lived in several different dept’s. In the 50′s it gained promence in response to the space race and specifically to challenge the russians in science. In the 60′s it grew further in promenence in reponse to the civil rights and war on poverty conflicts and took on more and more of the issues surrounding education related to these social problems. You are correct in that it as created by Congress in it’s present form in 1979 and began operating in 1980. But it has been around a while longer. And yes if we did away with it today we could eliminate 4,100 jobs and 49 Billion (plus about 81 Billion from the recovery act)of a total estimaed 2011 budget of 3.6 TRILLION. So yes that would be a savings of ????. Oh, and the 81 billion from the recovery act would eliminate about 200,000 teachers around the country – in states with neocons running them that pissed and moaned about the recovery act but now are lining up for the bucks. Please send me a link where I can read a substantion of your 80-20% alligation.

      Swedes – So let’s close the dept of homeland sec. Does that mean we do away with the coast guard, border patrol, tsa(okay, for once we agree)DEA, etc., that make up the DHS. A little more specificity is required. Prescription drug? Fine – what elected fool you going to get to push that? Even the tea baggers ain’t stupid enough to float that one. Well, except maybe the pea brain Angle in Nevada. Heck, most of the tea baggers are collectin off that bennie. And being only a few years away myself, it looks better and better all the time. So, any other ideas anyone?

      • swedesboromike says:

        Oh please. we had a coast guard long before we created the office of Homeland Security. Seems as though your solution is to do nothing but keep growing the government

        • jti says:

          So that means we still keep all of the 16 (or 22 agencies, can’t remember exactly how many)and just get rid of the parent DHS that was created, ahem, under the repub admin and congress? OK, I’ll drink to that.And so now, puff, no more DHS but still Coast Guard, ICE, Border Patrol, TSA(we could dump it if you want – no argument here), DEA and the others and have accomplished what? Remeber, the DHS is made up of all those agencies. You want to get rid of them? Fine, which ones? Oh, but I thought the country’s security was one of things we need afederal gov’t for. Ok, any other ideas?

  • USA#1 says:

    Another good article from Pat Buchanan (a true conservative) on why the garbage needs to be taken out in Washington. Caution for those of you who worship the current Republican leadership, he isn’t too kind to them. Keep cleaning house, turn’em and burn’em and get them out. http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=39060

    • swedesboromike says:

      Good Artlicle. Its about taking back the Republican party from the high minded establishment that is just as much liberal as Democrats.

  • jti says:

    So, again I ask of all the right wing, neo cons on this site as I have several times in the past both here and at the old philly.com site……specifically, what and where do you propose cutting? Enough of the “small gov’t B.S.” What are you advocating and what would you suppport cutting? Be careful now, you may be questioned on your answer and may have to support it to some other reader/posters. So, who wants to start?

    • mw56 says:

      For a start the Federal Government could get rid of the Dept of Ed, Dept of Inter, Dept of Ag.

      • landscape says:

        Enough joking around. It was a serious question.

      • jti says:

        So, drawing out your pithy, tea party-ish answer one can conclude you would advocate doing away with farm subsides, the food stamp program,etc., national parks and turning over all the national park land to private speculators and developers to build, mine and excavte all the natural resources to their hearts content and eventually to a point where the rich really got richer and rely on individual states to come up with educational standards and finances so as to have a balance educational system across all 50 states? Just asking……I mean, if these are the types of specifics you are talking about then say them specifically so people know what you are saying. Things like “I don’t want to have free lunches in schools for poor kids or a food stamp program to help feed the over 46 million folks in the country who depend on it to feed themselves and their families, etc.” Come on, be specific, spell it out.

        • mw56 says:

          Up until 1980 this country did without the Dept of Ed. Before then the state had a majority of the control to set standards to run their schools. Since then the Federal government has become more and more in control and education has gone down and down. When I say get rid of them I mean turn all constitutional powers granted to the states and local governments but have been taken over by the Federal Gov back to them. One thing this may do is make government spending more efficient. With most federal programs like welfare and school lunch less than 20% goes to help people. Over 80% goes to federal and state bureaucracy. The least we can do is cut out the federal bureaucracy.

        • F. Inahoy says:

          Yup. I remember it all to well. Until 1980 we were a nation of uneducated buffoons because we didn’t have a Department of Education.

        • Rich says:

          I love these responses where they say “turn it back to the states”. So, which poster child of responsible state government should we be looking to for guidance, New Jersey or Pennsylvania? Or maybe you want to go all in and imitate New York? News flash – the Feds are WAY better at managing programs and avoiding corruption than the states…

    • swedesboromike says:

      Eliminate Prescription Drug, close the department of Homeland Security. Buy the toilet seats from Home Depot instead of a government approved business. Just a couple thoughts.

      • mw56 says:

        Well it shouldn’t be hard to get rid of the elderly Prescription Drug Plan. For years I’ve been hearing from the liberals that it wasn’t paid for.

    • Rich says:

      jti, you ask good questions, but you are wasting your time on this lot – nothing but talking points here.

  • Nalaka says:

    In essence, the Republican party is the party of a specific group, one that is generally Caucasian and increasingly Southern. The Democratic party is the party of everyone else. It is no suprise that “everyone else” cannot agree on many issues, or is more likely to be held hostage by the wishes of a vocal minority. While I do at times get frustrated with the Democratic party tendency to waffle, I also appreciate its willingness to embrace progressive ideas and advocate for all levels of American society, not just the middle and upper classes. If others are frustrated with that, perhaps they should…form a third party?

    • tom - wilmington de says:

      Yep, just look at all those angry, older white males at those rallies. Amazing that all those Southerners traveled to all those Northern cities for their rallies as well. This post is delusional.

  • schnail says:

    As a liberal-leaning person, it pains me to say that our rhetorical leader at this time appears to be Lady Gaga. She got up and stood up powerfully and convincingly for equal rights, (what is supposed to be) a core Democratic principle. Where were prominent Democrats? Jumping through the window, I guess. Perhaps Ms. Gaga would also like to take up the tax issue?

  • tom - wilmington de says:

    Gee the six month anniversary of Obamacare came and went, with some provisions now taking effect, and I cannot recall if Polman even mentioned it. Is a story like this one of the reasons why…http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100923/ap_on_bi_ge/us_medicare_costs

    • schnail says:

      Yes! Let’s drop those kids when they get sick and show ‘em who’s boss! Go GOP! Wooooooo!

    • Steve says:

      The other thing that’s happening right now across many American companies is open enrollment to make changes/additions for the next fiscal year’s benefits. Many costs are going up over and beyond normal health care inflation as a direct result of changes made by ObamaCare. Many employees are now subsidizing fellow employees who have children 19-25 yrs old that can now be enrolled as a dependent, with no strings attached.

      • Steve says:

        Our company explicitly said that a portion of our rate increase is tied directly to the health care act, more specifically to the fact that a fairly large group of new dependents will come on line now with no restrictions on dependents up to 25.

  • tom - wilmington de says:

    Besides, by a show of hands, who on this site actually considers $250K to be rich? Is it rich in North Jersey/NYC? It is rich in Bucks County? Is $250K rich?

    • schnail says:

      It kicks the crap out of my salary, thanks very much.

    • Steve says:

      250K per year is good coin Tom. BUT, there is a difference between having a high-income and being wealthy. Just because someone’s income is high does not mean he or she is wealthy. I like to use the example of a young Doctor that is just now hitting her stride in building up a practice. This individual probably has untold student debts to pay and was not able to save much during all of those years of schooling and interning. There may be school teachers who have vastly more wealth than this Doctor, yet by Obama’s definition, she is filthy rich and the school teachers with decent salaries, minimal benefits costs, and pensions are hard working middle class folks.

      But all of this is beside the point. Raising taxes on incomes – high, middle, or poor – is just bad economic policy. Rather than trying to find ways to re-distribute income through top down policies, the Obama administration should be focusing on ways to lift all boats. I think he’s proposed some things that make sense, but for every one program or idea he has that makes sense for growing jobs, he has about three or four other ideas that kill jobs.

      • landscape says:

        The young ones are generally healthier. The older employees are the ones subsidized by the younger employees.

      • landscape says:

        Sorry wrong place

        Must have been some major currency inflation this summer if 1/4 mil is no longer rich. It’s somewhere in the top 5% of incomes regardless.

  • tom - wilmington de says:

    Couple of points. True that the polls show most Americans are not in favor of extending those cuts for $250K and above, but a vast majority of Americans in those same polls disagree with raising taxes on anyone when the economy is still so fragile. Also, while only 3% of small businesses would be affected, that 3% represents 50% of all small business income, so again context needs to be applied. Final missing item from Polman’s piece. Obama’s budget calls for the extension of the middle class cuts BUT with corresponding offset through either spending cuts or tax increases. Dems need to say on what they would apply or on who else they would increase taxes. Funny how Polman blasts the Republicans when a) neither Obama nor Dems in Congress have proposed a bill, and b) the only bill regarding the tax cuts was introduced by Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate leader. It would be a sham if they raised taxes in a lame duck session especially if it is a total Republican blowout like most predict.

    • schnail says:

      Qualifying as “small businesses” under the GOP definition: Price Waterhouse Coopers, Bechtel, KKR, the McIlhenny Co. (Tabasco maker), etc. Whatevs.

      • Steve says:

        I trust some of these businesses to deploy capital more effectively and efficiently into the economy than the government. The beauty of a tax cut (or in this case simply extending cuts that have been in place for a number of years now. This isn’t additional cuts we’re talking about here…)is that we don’t have to fund the overhead costs of a bunch of government bureaucrats having to administer the deployment of taxpayer resources. This is one of the untold costs of stimulus – government overhead and inefficiency in administration of the programs.

  • jmc says:

    The subtext of this entire argument is that the Bush tax cuts worked. They are good for everyone, and good for the economy.

    • portly says:

      and on that statement you are therefor willing to add $4.4 trillion to the deficit over the next decade?

      • Steve says:

        If you are so concerned about the deficit, then were you also for all of the bailouts and stimulus $ spent in recent years?

        Also cutting tax rates does not necessarily lead to lower tax revenues. I’d much rather have individual families and businesses deciding how to deploy capital than Washington.

        • johngilb says:

          The TARP and stimulus programs were intended to keep the economy from descending into a full-fledged depression, and they succeeded. Who benefitted the most from the stock market not collapsing? Those who own most of the stocks, that’s who (i.e., the rich). That’s why the tax cuts for the top 2% shouldn’t be extended – a small measure of thanks from the rich to Uncle Sam for saving their bacon.

        • Steve says:

          I call BULL on the stimulus. Perhaps some of the measures taken to shore up the banking system saved us, but the stimulus was a horribly inefficient way to boost the economy. We would have not gone into a depression if stimulus never happened. We would have been way better off allowing individuals and private businesses to figure out how to best spend the money as opposed to government bureaucrats.

  • F. Inahoy says:

    In keeping with the Oz theme, just what can one expect of the democrats when their leader is a scarecrow who is in search of a brain?

  • NE Philly says:

    The Democratic Party is rudderless. Mr. Polman is right that they should fight for their convictions like the GOP usually does. If you think he is right or wrong at least the President has his convictions. The problem is the dems find themselves on the wrong side of the big govt. vs. little govt. argument, with their passed legislation over the last 2 years as proof positive of their big govt., big tax philosophy. To extend or not extend the Bush tax cuts is part of that bigger argument about raising taxes on anyone in a recession and the dems are on the losing side, imho:) Have a great weekend everyone!

spacer image