Why Did Obama Cave on the Bush Tax Cuts?

"We have to deal with the world as we find it" says David Axelrod

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Bowing to Republican wishes, David Axelrod tells The Huffington Post the Obama administration will accept an extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for everyone, including those making over $250,000. "We have to deal with the world as we find it," Obama's top political adviser said. "I don't want to trade away security for the middle class in order to make that point."

It's discouraging news for liberals who had been pushing for a middle-class-only tax cut and a significant victory for ascendant Republicans who already seem to be holding sway. Here's the buzz in the blogosphere.

  • Obama Didn't Even Put Up a Fight, writes reporter Mike Allen at Politico:
We had told you this was the end game, but we're surprised there wasn't a dance first. Top Hill officials have been saying for weeks that the only tax-cut action that's possible in the upcoming lame-duck session is a temporary extension of the tax cuts for everyone. The White House had floated the idea of making the Bush tax cuts permanent for the middle class, while temporarily extending the cuts for the wealthy. But there was never any way Republicans would fall for that, since that would mean they later would have to support a tax cut that mostly benefited millionaires.
  • Axelrod Doesn't Get It, writes liberal blogger Marcy Wheeler at Fire Dog Lake:

And while I agree that raising middle class tax cuts at this point would be bad for the economy, it’s not the worst thing that could happen to the economy. In fact, the worst thing that could happen to this economy may well be passing legislation that continues to hollow out of the middle class and with it increasing the massive income inequality that continues to subject the American people to the craven demands of a few very rich people. That is, precisely what Axe and Obama have now agreed to do.

  • Obama Is Spineless, writes University of Oregon economist Mark Thoma at Economist's View:

Obama made it seem as though this is an issue where he won't compromise, but instead of holding the line and hammering Republicans day in and day out to make it clear who is standing in the way of extending middle class tax cuts, he caves. Why should we trust the administration to negotiate on issues such as Social Security when it can't even win this political battle? When Axelrod says "the president's commitments haven't changed," shouldn't he add "though we have to deal with the world as we find it"? Saying the president's commitments haven't changed yet is not a promise they won't change in the future, and Obama's history suggests they very well might.
  • Democrats Need to Redefine 'Rich People,' writes liberal columnist Michael Tomasky at The Guardian:

To cut to the chase, they have to give up on this idea that $250,000 is rich in this country. It's just not. it's certainly well off. The average two-income household is somewhere around $70,000, last I checked. So 3.5 times that is a lot, no doubt. But as I've written before, a married cop and high-school principal can make a combined 250K after enough years of work. This couple is not a good symbol of excess...

So, I still do not understand for the life of me why Obama won't come back from Asia and say here's my deal. I'll give you Bush rates on every household under $1 million, but they pay 39%. It may not generate as much revenue, and it may even lose, but at least they took a shot at something and reframed the debate a little bit.

  • We Did It! celebrates conservative blogger Dan Spencer at Redstate:

This is a huge victory for the campaign waged by the TEA Party Movement and many in the GOP, including Senators-Elect Marco Rubio and Pat Toomey to stop the huge Obama tax increase. Credit is also due to the post-election campaign wage by the GOP/TEA Party Movement victors to listen to the people, put the people back in charge and realize enough is enough. The TEA Party Movement proved to be such a powerful force even Axelrod is wondering how Obama can work with the “new breed of conservatives.”

  • Why Is Obama Compromising With These People? asks liberal blogger Jill at Brilliant at Breakfast
I wonder if President Obama realizes that even if he enacted every part of a Tea Party agenda, they would still regard him as an illegitimate usurper to their rightful perpetual control of the White House. Because so far there is NO issue on which he won't cave to Republicans. Now he's decided that the wealthiest Americans can keep their Bush-era tax cuts at the same time that his Catfood Commission has decided that Social Security needs to be cut.

Update: Is Obama really ready to concede? Axelrod sent an e-mail to National Journal today "refuting" the Huffington Post story. However, his exact words sound like he's still ready to compromise. "We're willing to discuss how we move forward” Axelrod wrote. “But we believe that it's imperative to extend the tax cuts for the middle class, and don't believe we can afford a permanent extension of tax cuts for the wealthy.”

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.