Compromise, Cont.

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I basically agree with everything here from Jon Chait. Great column. Some reasons to be hopeful, and also a dose of skepticism:


Obama has one golden ticket out of the revenue dilemma. As I've written multiple times, the expiration of the Bush tax cuts gives him enormous leverage over the GOP. Republicans signaled last year they'd rather kill off the entire Bush tax cuts than sacrifice the portion that only benefits the rich. Holding firm on the Bush tax cuts would let Obama maneuver Republicans into the position of killing off all the Bush tax cuts. That would provide all the revenue he needs - some $4 trillion over a decade, as opposed to the $800 billion he'd raise merely by ending tax cuts for the rich. 

What's more, going to the mat over the Bush tax cuts would provide Obama with a strong political message for 2012. He can't run on the economy. He needs a contrast election. Republicans will try to pass some version of the Paul Ryan budget, cutting taxes for the most affluent and laying waste to Medicare and Medicaid. Obama can run as the candidate insisting on shared sacrifice - and having already agreed to $3 trillion in spending cuts would give him credible to draw that line. 

The problem, though, is that we can't be sure Obama really intends to draw that line. There's a limit to how much faith one can place in a man who has so badly misjudged his political opponents time and time again. The debt ceiling ransom may be a shrewd strategic retreat, or it may be the largest in a series of historic capitulations. We won't know until the fight over the Bush tax cuts has been settled.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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