Democrats…Stand Up and Say No to a ‘Grand Bargain’

Say! Whaddaya mean “everything is on the table”? Whose side are you on? Remember what side you’re supposed to be on: neither left nor right — but, rather, the side of the majority of taxpayers who agree that all of us should be paying our fair share in taxes.

If you’re like many of us, hearing the words “fiscal cliff” is cringe-inducing. You’re ready for the uncertainty to end.  Finish. Complete. Done.

But how are we going to get to the point of putting in place what the voters decided upon if the political players in the ‘game’ are slippery about their position? The Republican party has made it quite clear what they want: no tax increase for the wealthiest wage earners, and significant cuts to entitlement programs. Even if the details about how this should be achieved are dodgy their end goal is etched in stone. But, other than the President and high-level Democratic party leadership such as Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, what do Democrats want?

Enter Blue Dog Democrats such as Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Mark Pryor (D-AR), among others who refused to sign the discharge petition to extend middle class tax cuts. For whom are they speaking when they indicate that ‘entitlements are on the table’ during the ongoing fiscal cliff negotiations? Even asking this is a strange question given that the President won his bid for reelection in part because of this issue.

There are no new polls or protests that contradict the President’s views that taxes should be extended for the middle class and increased for the upper tax brackets. He’s also been clear that savings in ‘entitlement’ programs are up for discussion in terms of operational savings, but cutting benefits is not. So why are there any opposing or misleading views on this issue within the Democratic party? Remember, Tea Party extremists who were voted out were given the boot, in part, because of their Grover Norquist “no tax” stance which would hold that the wealthiest 1% continue to pay the lowest taxes that they have in decades.

The bottom line is that mixed messages to the public sends a signal to the GOP that Democrats are willing to take actions that are bad for working families. Sending a message that they’re willing to keep peace with their colleagues across the aisle by compromising on the very issues that won them and the President the election says that Democrats are willing to accept low-hanging fruit in the form of small but hollow victories.

Compromise on this issue is about a ‘grand bargain‘ — and, if it were to come to pass, this grand bargain would be done in the name of compromise in which the 2% will relinquish some of  the generous tax break from which they’ve greatly benefitted, but only if the middle class will allow holes to be poked into the safety net. It appears that ‘weak’ Democrats find it of more importance to look ‘rational’ — which means that they’re not considering that appearing rational isn’t difficult in the face of repeated rabid Republican attacks against the middle class — than it is to fight for the nation’s long-standing social contract that keeps many from abject poverty. Democrats who are willing to place everything on the table in these negotiations are making some of us wonder if they’re either incredibly weak* or working with the GOP not to compromise but to pull a Blue Dog-style centrist bait-and-switch con job against those who elected them.

Will a bargain occur in the name of bipartisanship? The wealthy and, by default, the GOP have been targeting the safety net that keeps millions of citizens out of abject poverty for years. Elected officials have paid practically no attention to job creation but yet they are quite comfortable with using ‘deficit reduction’ in the same sentence as ’Social Security’ and ‘grand bargain’. Unfortunately, this presents a signal that the Dems are not walking in lockstep on this issue. And for an issue this simple, they should be.

 

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*See the “No Benefit Cuts: Citizens’ Vote Count” petition and list by MoveOn.org and other progressive organisations. Get informed!