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Obama's Not Just Compromising, He's Capitulating to Republicans on Tax Breaks

Democrats can step back and allow tax rates to reset to late 1990s levels. Or they can let the government grind to a standstill as Republicans fight to help billionaires.

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If President Obama and Congressional Democrats want to maintain the resources that will be necessary to protect Social Security and Medicare, fund education programs, invest in infrastructure and prevent state and local governments across the country from slipping into bankruptcy, they have to find streams of revenue. A failiure to do so will assure that the narrative for the next two years is written by conservative think tanks that have as their primary purpose the deconstruction of the New Deal and Great Society programs that have been in their targets for generations.

Which brings us to the logical calculus:

The overwhelming majority of Americans favor ending tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans while maintaining them for working Americans.

The overwhelming majority is, as well, supportive of extending unemployment benefits.

Democrats actually have the people behind them. If ever there was a time for President Obama to use the bully pulpit and pressure the Republicans to compromise, this is it.

Senator Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, one of the savviest members of the Congress over the past three decades, is right when he says that Democrats have viable options. They can simply step back and allow tax rates to reset to where they were during the boom years of the late 1990s. Or, says Harkin, they can let the government grind to a standstill as Republicans fight to help billionaires.

“They’re willing to shut the government down in order to get tax breaks for the wealthy," Harkin says of GOP senators. "I say let them do it."

It's an easy play. And this is the time to do it -- when the political and fiscal battlelines are being defined in the aftermath of the 2010 midterm elections.

If the Obama administration and Democratic Congressional leaders are unwilling to make a stand, then a logical question presents itself: when will they fight?

John Nichols is The Nation's Washington correspondent.

 
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