Just the Narrative, Ma’am

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.






55 replies
  1. 1

    Because shut up that’s why.

  2. 2
    henqiguai says:

    Your last paragraph; you sound surprised. The sun rising to the west of us, that would be surprising. The incompetence of the US media; that’s now comparable to ‘Oh look ! Water, it’s wet…’

  3. 3
    Allison W. says:

    excellent points.

  4. 4
    El Cid says:

    The new conformist, anti-liberal idiocy I’ve seen over at least the last few years is that any attempt at reasonable policies with stable and positive outcomes for the majority of the US population is “populist”.

    Such rational policy approaches are then associated with a mere style of politicking, as though it’s somehow no more than Huey Long performance to not want to pass laws and policies that are fucked up and hurt everyone but the super-rich.

  5. 5
    Geoduck says:

    It’s still a step up from talking about the Burlington Coat Factory Community Center.

  6. 6

    Don’t forget that as tv and newspaper bleed consumers, their constituency gets dumber. This pleases advertisers, who want the most gullible. So that’s who this is written for, and I’m afraid that’s who will fall for it.

    By their nature, Old Media is going to appeal to an increasingly conservative minded audience. That’s what conservative means.

    By so doing, it serves up fat pitches for New Media. Where did mistermix get the facts to rebut this article? And when he tells me things, I trust him. And if he gets it wrong, there will be commenters only too pleased to say so.

    That’s New Media. That’s why I prefer it.

  7. 7
    El Cid says:

    Yay.

    Republicans now have approximately a one-in-four chance of winning enough Senate seats in the Nov. 2 elections to claim an outright majority of the chamber, FiveThirtyEight’s latest forecasting model shows.

    I realize that while it may be intemperate, irrational, and even self-harming, sometimes I just can’t help from wanting the stupidity of the electorate to actually give them what they think they want.

  8. 8
    Ahasuerus says:

    since when is it a “compromise” to give Republicans everything they want

    January 20, 1980

  9. 9
    priscianus jr says:

    Lord knows the NY Times can give a nasty spin to things and has often been known to do so. But I’m sitting here wondering what is supposed to be wrong with this lede. Your emphasis on the word “compromise” is completely out of context. Essentiallly what it says is — when it comes to extending tax cuts for the super-rich, it’s NO COMPROMISE — Obama sees the issue as “a choice between supporting the middle class or giving breaks to the wealthy.” I think that’s a message America wants to hear.

  10. 10
    priscianus jr says:

    @El Cid:
    A one in four chance is not a very good chance, you know. And the campaign has barely started.

  11. 11
    aimai says:

    Letting all the tax cuts expire would be the right thing to do. Wanting to keep the middle class tax cuts is already the compromise. Anything else would be full capitulation.

    aimai

  12. 12
    El Cid says:

    @priscianus jr: No, I got that. It’s just that to me it’s like saying that people are okay with a 25% chance that their kid’s Happy Meal has extra plutonium in it.

  13. 13
    Napoleon says:

    Jackie Calmes is terrible for the NYT. This type of crap comes from her all the time.

  14. 14
    beltane says:

    The Times doesn’t even bother hiding that it is the mouthpiece of the upper 1% any more. Anything that benefits the bottom 95% is “populist” and is reacted to with overly loud shrieking and pearl clutching.

    Look at their lifestyle sections and the advertisements in the dead tree editions. If you are not an investment banker making at least $500,000 a year you are a non-person. There are so many better sources for economic analysis on the internet that one wonders why the Times even bothers anymore.

  15. 15
    blackwaterdog says:

    Your Liberal media at work. No surprise there.

  16. 16
    priscianus jr says:

    Is everybody on automatic pilot this morning? What are you all going on about? What the hell is wrong with calling Obama “populist” and saying he will not compromise the middle class in favor of the super rich?

  17. 17
    BTD says:

    @priscianus jr:

    Jake Tapper has not tweeted yet today.

  18. 18
    kd bart says:

    So who won the 7 to 8 AM hour?

  19. 19
    geg6 says:

    I, too, am a bit puzzled. I think it’s a good thing that Obama is saying “no compromise!” and presenting populist proposals. Just because this idiot may be (I haven’t and refuse to read the article) presenting it as a bad thing, that doesn’t mean it is or that people will actually take it that way.

  20. 20
    El Cid says:

    @priscianus jr: Personally I think the term “populist” suggests that the thrust of a policy is less than being sensible and mostly about an artificial and potentially harmful political style. I don’t think the use of the term is radically harmful, and maybe polls would tell me if people even ever heard the term and what they thought of it.

  21. 21
    mistermix says:

    @priscianus jr: There’s nothing wrong with being a “populist” but it’s become a media codeword for Huey Long-style irrational promises to the undeserving masses.

  22. 22
    WereBear says:

    @El Cid: polls would tell me if people even ever heard the term and what they thought of it.

    Not one in a million has a clue.

  23. 23
    Nick says:

    @priscianus jr:

    What the hell is wrong with calling Obama “populist” and saying he will not compromise the middle class in favor of the super rich?

    attempts to create the narrative that he’s unreasonable and radical.

  24. 24
    4tehlulz says:

    Narratives are useful. They make it easier to know what datapoints to disregard. For example, today’s generic ballot poll from Gallup, “Parties Tied at 46% in Generic Ballot for Congress“, can be ignored safely because the narrative already has established that their older poll is likely the most valid.

  25. 25

    i’m taking bets on which GOPer is first to use the “Class Warfare” on GOPingo ™ today. Watch your squares carefully.

  26. 26
  27. 27

    I always question the validity and sincerity of about anything a politician says during a campaign stretch run, and that includes Obama. They all are out in search for short term optical advantage over their opponent. Not that everything said is intrue, or phony, but most of it is for like what @kd bart: says. Who won the last hour. Obama is posturing, but would sign a compromise bill, I strongly suspect. What’s he gonna do, stand on principle and let middle class voters eat cake in the interim and start paying higher taxes in the middle of an economic recession, or whatever bad thing it is right now.

  28. 28
    Bullsmith says:

    The current law is that all the tax cuts expire. The Republicans want them all to be made permanent. Obama is proposing making those on middle-income earners permanent, or at least extending them, while letting those on the top earners expire.

    In a sane world, it’s Obama who’s for a compromise, and the Republicans who are opposed to one. But sadly sanity is no longer acceptable on the front pages of the NYT or any other major news outlet. It upsets our lords and masters, apparently.

  29. 29
    TJ says:

    @Bullsmith:

    In a sane world, it’s Obama who’s for a compromise, and the Republicans who are opposed to one. But sadly sanity is no longer acceptable on the front pages of the NYT or any other major news outlet. It upsets our lords and masters, apparently.

    If there’s one thing Republicans and Democrats agree on, it’s that the rich rule. An acceptable compromise to the Senate is to give them 1/2 of everything they want now, and 1/2 later.

  30. 30
    tomvox1 says:

    Thought the same when I read this last night and you left out perhaps the best bit of frame-job “analysis”:

    White House officials have strenuously avoided labeling the proposal a second stimulus plan, a phrase that has taken on negative political connotations since the original roughly $800 billion recovery plan and subsequent additions have failed to push unemployment down substantially.

    As opposed to where the unemployment numbers would be now without that filthy communist stimulus (that “some say” was too damn small to begin with)…

    Sadly, twits like Jackie Calmes who take dictation from the Right and and pass it off as ersatz political savvy are the rule today, not the exception. Oy.

  31. 31
    El Cid says:

    Finally, a serious proposal from the GOP leadership to fix the economy.

    In fact, House Republican Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, surfaced his own proposals Wednesday, saying in a nationally broadcast network interview that Congress should freeze all tax rates for two years and should cut federal spending to the levels of 2008, before the deep recession took hold of the economy.

    See, a radical populist GOP solution would have been to remove all taxes and stop all federal spending outside the military and big industry subsidies.

    [Remember, the reason for all the unemployment is all da spendin’, and because business is afraid of the radical Marxist-Leninist-Maoist-Kenyonesian Obama. Also all the inflation.]

  32. 32

    @El Cid:
    Well, I suppose one could say that was a big compromise from the Orange One. After all, he didn’t propose lowering taxes.

  33. 33

    @El Cid: Sounds like Boehner has been reading Orzag. I suspect a 2 year extension for the entire Bush tax cuts might well get passed, except that Boehner will likely say something entirely different tomorrow/

  34. 34
    El Cid says:

    @arguingwithsignposts: A GOP compromise would involve abolishing the IRS in a year’s time rather than immediately.

  35. 35
    Mike in NC says:

    Sadly, twits like Jackie Calmes who take dictation from the Right and and pass it off as ersatz political savvy are the rule today, not the exception. Oy.

    That would seem to go double for folks like Dan Balz over at the Washington Post.

  36. 36
    Corner Stone says:

    @Mike in NC:

    That would seem to go double for folks like Dan Balz over at the Washington Post.

    Isn’t it a requirement that you must use some kind of pun when you mention Dan Balz?

  37. 37
    Corner Stone says:

    I hope all the tax cuts expire as arranged, and then new more targeted ones are presented asap. Make the R’s attack a clean, clear middle class tax cut bill. Don’t let them hide behind a multi years old plan most people don’t know anything about.
    But that’s just me.

  38. 38
    burnspbesq says:

    Political semantics = Calvinball. And you’re Hobbes.

    Any other questions?

  39. 39

    @Corner Stone: Damn, for once I agree with the corner stone. earthquake imminent.

  40. 40
    eemom says:

    @priscianus jr:

    I agree. When I saw that headline last night — and I didn’t read the article — I was like, YES. Take THAT, republicans-emmessemm-firebaggers-defeatists.

    NO tax cuts for rich. NO compromise. Fuck. You., republicans-emmessemm-firebaggers-defeatists-Peter Orszag.

    Ferfucksake, isn’t everyone always complaining that Obama is TOO compromising all the time? TOO unwilling to take a bold stand? WTF do you all WANT from the man?

    We’re becoming a fucking NATION of firebaggers.

    And as for whatever meme the NYT is pushing — so what? Who the fuck cares? We’re doing exactly what John was decrying yesterday — letting the stupid media narrative drive the “discussion” instead of the actual, you know, ISSUE.

    /end rant

  41. 41
    eemom says:

    @General Stuck:

    Damn, for once I agree with the corner stone. earthquake Armaggeddon imminent.

    Fixteth.

  42. 42
    rikyrah says:

    you’re so much on the money. keep pointing out the obvious, because, well, it needs to be done.

    those idiots.

  43. 43
    Jim Pharo says:

    [T]he new narrative is that everything Obama proposes after Labor Day merits the adjective “election-season…

    You’re forgetting this meme’s evil twin: That the voters are tired of how LONG these things drag on for! Why, if you think about it, this nasty and unpleasant election business really never ended from the last time around, since those nice Republicans have had to campaign more or less full-time since there’s nothing else they can do…

  44. 44
    gene108 says:

    It’s a mistake for Obama to take such an angry tone pitting the needs of 98% of Americans against the richest 2%.

    (a) He’ll hurt the fee-fees of the wealthy, who don’t like being told they aren’t the most super important people on the planet
    (b) The wealthy will take their money and go shopping elsewhere because their fee-fees got hurt, which will lead to economic ruin.

  45. 45
    Moses2317 says:

    @El Cid: So the Orange Man from Ohio wants to return us to 2008 spending. Does that mean he wants to give another $700 billion to the banksters, as President Bush did with the TARP bailout?

    Winning Progressive

  46. 46
    Corner Stone says:

    Speaking of driving a narrative. The brain deficient pastor in FL has now gotten Gen Betrayus, the Vatican and her loveliness Angelina Jolie to comment on record about his stupidity.
    I guess he’ll be rewarded with a book deal or reality TV series asap?

  47. 47
    Corner Stone says:

    David Axelrod is awful. Just flat fucking awful on interviews.
    Sheesh.

  48. 48
    Corner Stone says:

    @Corner Stone: In fact, I would have my team put a clean, focused bill together RIGHT NOW and start presenting details of it. Treat it like it’s actually going to be presented in Congress, and use it as leverage.
    Give your conservative Democratic hmmm..allies.. plenty of cover to get behind a clean middle class tax cut bill.

  49. 49
    El Cid says:

    @Moses2317: Sure, as long as it’s defined as $700 billion in tax cuts (i.e., returns) and not ‘spending’.

  50. 50
    Ben Jammin' Cisco (formerly Indie Tarheel) says:

    @Corner Stone: I’ll go you one better; I’d have had this ready to go MONTHS ago. Clean, clear, and unequivocal. Agent Orange would’ve gone for the full “surface of Mars” effect.

  51. 51
    Corner Stone says:

    @Ben Jammin’ Cisco (formerly Indie Tarheel): No argument. We all knew this was coming, we all knew it would be contentious, we all knew it would impact the elections to some variable degree.
    If anyone can explain why the Democrats allowed themselves to be boxed into this narrative I would like to hear it.

    I guess the counter is that it’s easier for your opponent to pick away at a defined plan, or flat lie about it.
    IMO, I’d rather be promoting my own focused plan vigorously instead of letting the media Santorum everything up with their frothy mixture.

  52. 52
    ChrisB says:

    @aimai: Keeping the middle class tax cuts is political calculation, not compromise, and has always been Obama’s position, I believe.

    Yes, this was primarily a horse race article with little policy discussion. There was no discussion, for example, of the effect the expiration of the tax cut on the deficit. Of course there was, however, the unrebutted claim by Reagan economic adviser Martin Feldstein that allowing the tax cuts on the rich to expire would be “‘a blow to a very fragile economy.'” As was predicted in several comments yesterday, the article then stated that, “to the chagrin of the White House,” the same stance was taken by Peter Orszag.

  53. 53
    Daulnay says:

    For the economy, it’s not a good idea to decrease the deficit by letting tax rates (and revenues) go up. We are far too close to a Keynesian Liquidity Trap. Having these tax cuts expire will hurt, unless we replace them with something better.

    Let the tax cuts end on the wealthy. They will bank the money instead of spending it, anyway. We need the beneficiaries to spend the money, to spur the economy Instead, shift that tax cut to the working poor, so that an equal amount of revenue is replaced. The poor will spend the money, and it will help the economy immensely.

    When the economy is doing well, we want to help saving and investment. When it’s not, there are few good investment opportunities. Many investors sit on their cash (or if there is inflation, put it in gold), as they are now. There’s no point in giving money to them for stimulus, they won’t spend it. We need to funnel the stimulus cash to the people who will spend it, the working poor.

  54. 54
    Stillwater says:

    @Corner Stone: If anyone can explain why the Democrats allowed themselves to be boxed into this narrative I would like to hear it.

    I’ll try: Democrats are a party which includes many (manymany) very economically conservative members who identify first and foremost with the economic ideology of their corporate contributors. Pushing back against the current narrative re: the Bush tax cuts would require the party to present itself as prioritizing working/middle class interests above investor class interests. But the party isn’t anti-investor class. And much of the party isn’t pro-middle class (except insofar as middle class interests devolve from investor class interests).

    Shorter: the party doesn’t agree on the policy, so they can’t agree on the politics of pushing against the current narrative.

  55. 55
    priscianus jr says:

    @eemom:
    What you said. Exactly.

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