A Tough Choice

I’ve been unable to read through an entire news story about the recent congressional battle over the fate of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. I become so incensed towards the Republican Party that I lose control of myself. It strikes me as a cosmic injustice that a party that shows such naked greed and disregard for the unfortunate swept the 2010 elections. How could a party that won by promising to reduce the deficit now insist on continuing tax cuts that will add something like a trillion dollars to our debt in the next decade? The fact that they earned the goodwill of voters makes me lose faith in the judgment of the American people.

The reptilian core of my brain tells me that Obama should let them block extensions of unemployment benefits and of the middle- and lower-class portions of the Bush tax cuts. The legislative stalemate would humiliate them by exposing the lengths they are willing to go to protect their millionaire constituents. Poll numbers for Republican members of Congress would drop, and Obama’s numbers would rise, putting Democrats in a good position for the 2012 elections. Finally, I would enjoy reading and talking about politics again. Justice would be restored to the universe.

The mammalian outer layer of my brain, however, gently reminds me that millions of Americans are jobless and suffering. It’s important to remember that casting the Republicans in a negative light is not the first priority of the Democratic Party, although it seems to be in this rancorous age. Instead, the Democrats were elected on a promise to work to end the recession, and, in the meantime, to lessen the hardship it causes. If they played a game of chicken with the Republicans on the issue of the Bush tax cuts, they might win the hearts of the American people, but they would lose sight of their real goals – to help the needy and to jump-start the economy.

Instead of being a moment of disgrace for Obama, this compromise represents a fulfillment of his 2008 campaign promise to rise above the bickering of party politics. It’s painful for a left-winger like me to watch Congress extend tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent of a society that already suffers from a shamefully lopsided distribution of wealth, and already has way too much debt. But if that is what Democrats must accept to keep Republicans from blocking unemployment benefits, so be it.

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