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Dog Under Duress

HO HO HO


HO HO HO: The current debate over extending tax cuts for the rich has been decidedly unkind to women’s genitalia. With alarming frequency, Democrats in general—and President Obama in particular—have been described in colloquially gynecological terms. And it’s never in flattering terms. In even so-called polite society, the P-word pops up with striking frequency from those shocked, appalled, and disappointed by the supine abjection displayed by Democrats in face of the one-sided class warfare waged so effectively by Republicans. Somebody needs to stand up and say something. Should such comparisons with Democrats go unchallenged, the vagina could start to get a bad rap.

Angry Poodle

Even when Democrats enjoyed clear numerical majority, they relentlessly displayed an aversion to jugular politics. “The Audacity of Hope,” in their hands, has become more “The Audacity of Wishful Thinking.” When it comes to speaking softly and carrying a big stick, Obama has obviously mastered the first part of the equation, but has demonstrated no appetite for the latter. By contrast, Republicans start their day, en masse, by opening a can of whoop-ass. (Even Bill Clinton, who Obama felt compelled to call in for back-up, had no compunction about flipping the switch on a retarded Death Row inmate just to let people know he meant business.) When the facts and common sense conspire against Republicans, they remain resolute and undeterred. That they could be perceived as greedy, selfish, or mean-spirited is a matter of never no mind. Philosophically, Republicans came to terms with the fact that there is no truth long ago. To the extent there is, they discovered it’s only what they say it is. In the 2004 Presidential campaign, they successfully besmirched the military record of Democrat John Kerry, a certified decorated war hero, on behalf of George W. Bush, a bona fide draft dodger. If anyone’s audacious, it’s the Republicans.

Certainly it takes uncommon nerve to threaten to stop unemployment payments for about two million chronically jobless people at the height of Christmas season. If tax cuts enacted during the George W. Bush years are going to be extended for the middle class, the Republicans are demanding, then, that they should be extended for the upper 2 percent of the economic food chain, as well. For people making $1 million a year, that translates to a saving of $136,000. For the nation as whole, that will cost the federal government $300 billion in additional debt. This comes at a time when Moody’s is threatening to reduce the United States credit rating because of this debt.

But unlike Democrats, Republicans don’t mess around. Without the tax cuts for the rich, there will be no Senate vote on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell; no vote on START, which would reduce nuclear stockpiles in the United States and Russia by 30 percent; and no vote on the DREAM Act, an immigration reform measure favored by liberals. If these matters aren’t voted on between now and the end of the year, they’re effectively dead. That’s because the new Republican majority takes control next year.

In the immediate aftermath of the recent mid-term elections, it appeared most surviving Democrats had no interest in battling Republicans over the tax cuts or much else. Last week, Obama likewise swallowed the Kool-Aid, but, with customary oratorical brilliance, explained why it was both necessary and nutritious. This, in turn, sparked a brief insurrectionary shudder within the progressive faction of the Democratic Party. Vermont Democrat Peter Welch circulated a letter vowing to oppose the tax deal Obama struck with the Republicans. Only 54 Democrats signed on, enough to be embarrassing but not enough to really matter. Santa Barbara’s Lois Capps was not one of them. Initially, she indicated she would hold her nose and vote with the president. Now, she’s saying she’s not so sure. It all depends on what sort of last minute changes House Democrats might try to make now that the deal has passed the Senate. One cute idea making the rounds was to limit the duration of tax breaks for the wealthy to the same period—13 months—as the unemployment extensions for the chronically unemployed.

It turns out there’s a lot of fine print in the Senate bill that Capps hadn’t focused on till recently. For example, revisions to the inheritance tax promise to cost the federal government $60 billion through 2013. If the Republicans and Obama prevail, the first $10 million of inherited wealth would be deemed off-limits to the tax collector. Dems like Capps have noted that the Republican estate tax plan will totally exempt all but .14 percent of all estates, providing an average benefit of $1.8 million for about 6,600 families. By contrast, House Democrats are proposing an alternative that would exempt the first $7 million of inherited wealth from the tax man. This, they point out, would still leave the vast majority of estates—all but 1.76 percent—totally untouched and unscathed. To date, Senate Republican leaders have insisted any changes to the estate tax would kill the deal.

Maybe the Dems can extract some token, face-saving victories by extruding the more objectionable give-aways to the corn industry cleverly inserted into the tax bill. As written, the bill includes a $5.3-billion tax break for the ethanol industry by providing a 45-cents-a-gallon subsidy for the producers of the corn-based pseudo-alternative fuel source, which still consumes more energy in its manufacture than it winds up actually producing. Hollywood would be bribed to the tune of $162 million in tax breaks not to shoot movies overseas, and companies going to the huge expense of building “motorsports entertainment complexes” would be rewarded for their bold entrepreneurial vision with $40 million in tax breaks. By contrast, only $30 million in tax breaks was written into the bill to help encourage the development of wind farms and solar power stations.

In the meantime, if you’re going to talk trash about the Democrats for their overall gutlessness, be my guest. But leave the P-word out of it. It ain’t fair to women, it ain’t fair to the P-word, and it only serves to embolden gynophobes everywhere.

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