Call it bipartisanship at its best.
On Monday, President Obama negotiated a deal with the Republican leadership to temporarily extend ALL the Bush tax cuts (those for the middle class and the top 2 percent), along with unemployment benefits that have expired. While this deal is not perfect, I believe it was the right course of action.
Although Obama is still against an extension of tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent, as it would be detrimental to our staggering economy and cost us an additional $700 billion in lost revenue, he has avoided a larger threat and won an extension of unemployment benefits; a temporary reduction in payroll taxes for 155 million workers; tax cuts for the 100 million middle-class families; and 100% expensing for businesses next year, generating more than $50 billion in additional investment in the U.S. (U.S. Treasury Department). All these measures will provide benefits to millions of Americans and help spur domestic job creation.
For weeks, the debate has been at a standstill with both sides of the political isle unwilling to give in. The federal unemployment benefits expired last month, leaving two million jobless without any support; and the Bush-era tax cuts for every American were set to expire January 1st. If no action was taken and the middle class tax cuts were allowed to expire, 98 percent of Americans would see a $3,000 tax increase and the economy could have shed more than one million jobs (U.S. Labor Department and the Tax Policy Center).
While the deal may not be suitable to everyone, especially those within Obama’s own party, this is the true essence of “compromise”. With their new majorities in Congress, Republicans were holding the extension of unemployment benefits hostage to a deal on extending the upper-bracket tax cuts. The options were limited.
A compromise does not make our president look weak. Instead, it shows that he is truly putting politics aside and doing what he was elected to do: lead. He is not the President of the Democrats, but the President of the United States.
The hope is that Obama’s ability to reach across the political isle may prove helpful to Democrats in the next legislative session. However, Republican senators made clear they are unlikely to budge in their opposition to other national priorities. Yesterday, Senate Republicans blocked Democratic legislation that sought to provide medical care for 9/11 workers; and today they voted along party lines to prevent the passage of legislation to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell”.
With the DREAM act and START treaty soon to approach the Senate floor, I hope the GOP leadership is taking a few tips from our president and will stop the political bickering. Will 2011 bring about a new era of compromise? Let’s wait and see.
For another look at the President's compromise, watch this video from the White House: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iOH6t6mxuJM&feature=player_embedded