Unemployment benefits and tax cuts: 'compromise' as usual

Unemployment benefits extended, payroll taxes cut, and all Bush tax cuts extended: an all-too-typical Washington 'compromise' where everybody gets what they want – while the deficit deepens.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP
President Obama speaks to reporters after meeting with Democratic congressional leaders on a year-end bipartisan agreement to extend expiring tax cuts, in Washington, Dec. 6. In the now-common model of Washington 'compromise,' neither side had to sacrifice what they want: everyone just piled on, instead. How deep will deficit spending reach before the pendulum swings back to financial responsibility?

Here’s the breaking news on the “compromise” on the Bush tax cuts:

Washington (CNN) — President Barack Obama on Monday announced a deal with Republican leaders that would extend Bush-era tax cuts for two years and unemployment benefits for 13 months while also lowering the payroll tax by two percentage points for a year.

It’s what I expected, because it’s the typical pattern we’ve seen for the past several years. “Bipartisan compromise” means both sides get what they want, because deficit financing of these policies seems like the painless way to get out of gridlock. Rather than mutual sacrifice, it is mutual grabbing. We can never manage to “trade off”–we only “pile on.”

Tonight many Democrats are expressing their dismay about the President abandoning his campaign promise to let the Bush tax cuts for the rich expire. But I would remind them that it doesn’t mean much to “promise” something that you literally don’t have to do anything to fulfill. Remember, all of the Bush tax cuts would expire under current law if Congress and President Obama just didn’t do anything. The much more meaningful promise of President Obama was his promise to continue the Bush tax cuts for all households with incomes under $250,000, because it had to become one of President Obama’s own proposals in his own budget in order to keep that promise. And so far, he’s obviously keeping that promise.

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