Barack Obama: President, not King

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Email from a moderate lefty friend:

We crossed the Tipping Point yesterday. Last night L told me she’s “over” Obama and thinks he’s in over his head, politically. Up until yesterday, she was a die-hard supporter/defender. I’m nearly there.

I don’t think he or his advisors have any idea how fast his supporters are fleeing. It reminds me — painfully — of Carter, circa 1979. Obama’s about one “killer rabbit” away from certain defeat by any Republican, including Palin.

Easy solution: eliminate middle class payroll taxes and/or reduce tax rate on first $250K to as close to zero as possible and tax everything north of that at 40%, including dividends and capital gains.

Apropos of last night’s post, I told him to wait until January to see what Obama is really made of. But it reminds me of something else, and I don’t remember for sure if I’ve blogged about this. That’s the problem with our modern cornucopia of communications channels. Maybe I tweeted this. Maybe I said it in a talk. Maybe I emailed about it. Or maybe I’ve already blogged it ten times and just forgotten about it. Who knows?

But anyway, here it is: Obama is a president, not a king. On taxes, for example, his position has been steady and clear all along: extend the broad tax cuts but kill the cuts aimed solely at the rich.

So why hasn’t it happened? Because of opposition from within his own party. A tax bill could have been passed by reconciliation in the Senate, but for some reason it wasn’t. It could have been passed in the House, but a combination of Blue Dogs and fainthearted centrists afraid of attack ads blocked it. And as much as we all like to pine for the days of LBJ and the “treatment,” those days are long gone. It’s genuinely not clear what kind of leverage Obama has over recalcitrant members of Congress. Not a lot, in any case.

I figure that Obama probably could have done more, but I’m not absolutely sure of that. What really happened was a failure of the Democratic caucus in Congress. That doesn’t make as juicy a target, but it’s a more accurate one. In this case, blame the party, not the president.

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