From the headline (“Obama Against a Compromise on Extension of Bush Tax Cuts“) to the horse race frame and conventional wisdom narrative, this Times front-page article is a pure distillation of the stupid analysis we’re going to see for the next two months:
WASHINGTON — President Obama on Wednesday will make clear that he opposes any compromise that would extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy beyond this year, officials said, adding a populist twist to an election-season economic package that is otherwise designed to entice support from big businesses and their Republican allies.
Mr. Obama’s opposition to allowing the high-end tax cuts to remain in place for even another year or two would be the signal many Congressional Democrats have been awaiting as they prepare for a showdown with Republicans on the issue and ends speculation that the White House might be open to an extension. Democrats say only the president can rally wavering lawmakers who, amid the party’s weakened poll numbers, feel increasingly vulnerable to Republican attacks if they let the top rates lapse at the end of this year as scheduled.
It is not clear that Mr. Obama can prevail given his own diminished popularity, the tepid economic recovery and the divisions within his party. But by proposing to extend the rates for the 98 percent of households with income below $250,000 for couples and $200,000 for individuals — and insisting that federal income tax rates in 2011 go back to their pre-2001 levels for income above those cutoffs — he intends to cast the issue as a choice between supporting the middle class or giving breaks to the wealthy.
Perhaps I’m just a partisan to point this out, but since when is it a “compromise” to give Republicans everything they want, why is it a dirty word (“populism”) to let tax cuts on the rich expire, and can we ever have a mention of Obama’s “diminished popularity” that points out that it still beats other recent presidents facing recessions in their first term?
More importantly, if the new narrative is that everything Obama proposes after Labor Day merits the adjective “election-season”, where has the DC media been for the past 18 months? We’ve had a record level of obstruction from Republicans in hopes that they’d be able to kill or water down the Democrats’ legislative agenda. For the GOP, every day has been the day before election day, yet now we’re supposed to discount the next two months of the Obama administration’s proposals as “election-season” politics.