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The Problem with the Obama Tax Compromise

December 8, 2010 ·

Should we really be negotiating with a party that is dominated by corporatists who are happy with the increasing concentration of wealth?

The Obama “tax compromise” proposal extends tax cuts for high-income households and institutes a greatly diminished federal estate tax.  President Obama argues that he wants to change the politics of Washington and not hold unemployment benefits and middle class tax cuts  hostage.

But does the ransom always have to be so high?

It is one thing to compromise with people when you agree on similar goals.  You can work in good faith and agree to disagree on strategy.

The problem with continually compromising with the extreme right-wing corporatist faction that has taken over the Republican Party is they have a very different vision for the United States. 

They really don’t want to live in a society with greater equality of opportunity, healthy communities, shared prosperity.  They don’t give a rat’s behind about the quality of life for working class and poor people in the U.S. and around the world.  They do not lay awake at night concerned about hungry children, youth violence, the despair of prolonged unemployment, AIDS in Africa, and the ecological crisis. 

They have an Ayn Rand view of the world where they are the virtuous prime movers –and the rest of the world is parasites and looters, trying to pillage their wealth.

These Republicans are not Dwight Eisenhower, or Warren Rudman, or Lincoln Chaffee, or Ed Brooke.  There have always been political leaders in both major parties genuinely concerned about the common good.

The McConnell-Boehner-Bachmann-DeMint-Paul party would be content to live in a plutocracy –with vast disparities of wealth and power.   For various reasons, they believe this is the natural order of things –and don’t want to disrupt it.

And they are OK with rigging the game so that they and their wealthy constituents keep winning the game –while cloaking themselves in virtuousness and deservedness.

This is not a negotiation over which type of math curriculum will boost our children’s achievement.  This is not a “Getting To Yes” exercise in a Harvard Law School class.  This is a power struggle for the future soul of America:  Plutocracy versus Peace and Plenty.

If power keeps concentrating in the hands of a few –the very wealthy will use this power to further increase their power and privilege. 

There are inspiring examples of the opposite.  The Wealth for the Common Good network is a case in point –wealthy individuals speaking out for policies that would reduce the concentration of wealth and encourage more broadly shared prosperity.

One urgent action we can all take is to support the Responsible Estate Tax Act –which would effectively reduce the concentration of wealth.  See the Other 98 Percent’s petition campaign.

The great moral question of our time is: Does a policy further concentrate wealth and power –or does it disperse wealth and power?

The Obama “tax compromise” fails the test.  It will lead to a further concentration of wealth and power.  It moves us in the wrong direction.