THE KING’S SPEECH

Absolutely terrific movie.  Do not miss.  Take the kids.

THE PRESIDENT’S SPEECH

Did you ever see “The American President” starring Michael Douglas?  I forgot “the speech,” but you have to take five minutes to watch it, for the host of ironies and foreshadowings you’ll pick out (really? we’ve been talking about global warming for 15 years now?), and because of the catharsis.  If only real life could be scripted by Aaron Sorkin.

The overarching plot, as you’ll recall, is that the President has two really important priorities, desperately wants both, but is put in a position where he has to sacrifice one for the other.

So here is President Obama, who’s being asked by the Republicans to give $70 billion a year that we definitely don’t have to a small subset of citizens who definitely don’t need it – and if he does that (and seemingly only if he does that) the opposition party might ratify the new START treaty, repeal DA/DT, and extend unemployment benefits to desperate families struggling to keep a roof over their heads.  (And maybe go along with a few other things, like health care for 9/11 first responders and the DREAM Act.)

It’s horrifying – and disunifying – because it pits liberals (and moderates) like me who are beside ourselves at the thought of going deeper into debt to extend tax cuts above $250,000 (and who are infuriated by the phony notion that this is a smart way to stimulate the economy, or that Bechtel is a “small business”) . . . against liberals (and moderates) like me who desperately don’t want to see us fail to ratify the treaty, extend unemployment benefits, and repeal DA/DT (and maybe those few other things) – and are infuriated that the opposition may indeed be able to force this awful choice on the President.

Mitch McConnell blithely said on Meet the Press yesterday morning that Americans don’t want to see anyone’s taxes go up . . . when in fact the last poll I saw showed only 26% saying this.

The truth is, it would be a terrible idea to extend the cuts on income above $250,000 even if 96% were for it, but at 26% it’s not even what “the people” want.  (And as to those 26%, I will reveal my arrogance in telling you I don’t believe many of them have thought the issue through carefully.)

And yet Mitch McConnell and his team just keep insisting that it’s what the people want, and that they are advocating it simply for the greater good – small business owners who will use the money to create jobs – just as President Bush and his team assured us that “the vast majority” of their tax cuts would go to “people at the bottom end of the economic ladder.” And that his tax cuts would not throw us into deficit.

The consequences of those ill-advised tax cuts have been dire.  And now they’re doing it to us again.  The rich must have low tax rates.  Senator McConnell even suggested that these low rates made for a good economy during the Bush years (when there was virtually no job growth and middle class income fell), failing to explain how under Clinton’s higher tax rates we managed to fund thousands of start-ups and create 22 million new jobs.

It’s the kind of frustration some of us felt for decades as tobacco executives and their “scientists” and advocates in Congress maintained that there was no link between smoking and cancer and pretended they did not try to market to children to addict new customers.  These were lies, most people knew they were lies, and yet for decades, the tobacco companies just kept getting away with them.

What kind of people do this?  Can self-interest run that deep?  Obviously, as we know, it can and does.  (Mitch McConnell, by the way, is a champion of the tobacco industry and well may be the all-time largest recipient of its political contributions.)

If you believe smoking doesn’t cause cancer, if you believe the vast majority of the Bush tax cuts did go to people at the bottom, then you should believe Mitch McConnell is just looking out for small business and trying to create jobs the smartest way he knows how in insisting we borrow $70 billion a year to extend tax cuts on income above $250,000.

Just how this will all play out I obviously don’t know.

What I do know is that, faced with people like Mitch McConnell, it’s harder to get a good resolution than many of us liberals and moderates realize.

Like you, I am hoping for the happiest possible ending.

 

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