Douthat's take on the tax cut compromise:
As policy, the bargain Barack Obama just struck with Congressional Republicans is a classic “it makes sense, if …” situation. Given the parlous state of the economy, it makes sense to maintain the low Bush-era tax rates, it makes sense to extend unemployment benefits, and it makes sense to temporarily drop the payroll tax rate … if, that is, our leaders use the time between today and 2012, when this bargain comes up for renegotiation, to make real progress on a strategy for long-term deficit reduction, joined to a base-broadening, rate-lowering tax reform package that renders the debates over the Bush tax cuts obsolete.
But that’s a big if.
And a big opportunity the Dish has been begging Obama to seize. Howard Gleckman is on the same page, but more pessimistic:
It would be nice if Congress did what former Budget Director Peter Orszag, my Tax Policy Center colleague Len Burman, and others have suggested, which is to use the next couple of years to enact serious tax reform. It would be nice. But it won’t happen.
Remember the virtuous talk of fiscal prudence that washed over Washington for, oh, three days last week. Forget it. Forget as well the promises of change that Republicans (and Obama before them) brought to Washington. This is business as usual and at its worst: You have a bad and expensive idea. I have a bad and expensive idea. Let’s compromise and pass both of our bad ideas.
Avent looks at the bright side:
It's worth continuing to argue for sensible deficit-reduction policy. But it's difficult for me to see movement within Congress for meaningful deficit reduction until bond markets provide pressure. And the shortest way to get there is via a strong economic recovery. Which, happily, will make austerity more bearable. In short, this deal seems to amount to a meaningful if modest improvement in the near-term impact of fiscal policy on the economy, without bringing with it much of an additional budget cost. In the highly imperfect world of Washington policymaking, America could have done much worse.
[If] Obama caves again, or if Republicans win the White House and push through another tax cut extension, this deal will go down as a huge blunder for Obama. The good news for Obama is that the deal probably increases the chance that he'll get that second term. If so, he'll need to handle this issue better than he did the first time around.