The bottom line up top, then the details.
We know that Pelosi wants her gavel back. We know that Obama wants his Grand Bargain; he's been saying so since 2006. This has all the earmarks of a trade.
If so, the Pelosi–Obama bargain goes like this — "I get my gavel, and you get to kill the safety net (sorry, 'reform' Social Security)." My Inner Occam explanation (see link) still makes sense to me.
To execute, she would first have to cave on Simpson-Bowles (Obama says "the deal is still on the table"). That happened late last month.
Now we see her caving on the $250,000 breakpoint in the looming lame duck battle over the "Bush" tax cuts. She's suddenly offering to move the breakpoint to $1,000,000 — up from Obama's stated $250,000 — without being asked (publicly).
Is that also part of the Pelosi–Obama deal? Is she front-running for Obama's "regretful" later concession? Only the fly on the Oval Office wall knows for sure. She's certainly not playing super-chess, because moving the price of collapse doesn't change the game. Hmm.
Next the details. Here's her announcement (my emphasis throughout):
Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi today called on Speaker Boehner to bring a permanent extension of the middle income tax cuts to the House floor immediately and use the revenues resulting from the expiring tax breaks for those earning more than a million dollars to pay down the deficit.And by "pay down the deficit" she means "pay down a lot less of the deficit than Obama claims to want". ThinkProgress:
[H]er proposal differs from others offered by Democrats, including President Obama, that call for an extension of the rates for incomes below $250,000. ... Pelosi wants a permanent extension of the Bush tax cuts for incomes up to $1 million, the statement said. ...According to the Tax Justice link above, there's a 43% loss in revenue between Obama's last-stated proposal and Pelosi's current one. Sounds like money to me.
Her plan, however, would cost the government billions in revenue compared to Obama’s plan, and though she has billed it as a tax cut for the middle class, half of its benefits would go to millionaires, according to analysis from Citizens for Tax Justice[.]
But maybe you're not supposed to notice that part, just the part where Pelosi forcefully "calls on Speaker Boehner to ... middle-class tax cuts ... immediately."
"Here's a plan that looks really good till you look at it. You on the bus, don't look at it. (And before you ask, I'm speaking just for me.)"
Recommendations for Progressives
1. The Bush tax cuts are killing us, killing the nation. We're beyond politics and super-chess. Bush did a dandy on us, and it has to stop. Here's the damage, one more time:
That fat brown stain is the Bush (and now Obama) tax cuts.
2. From this flows the only good progressive position, in my opinion:
- In practice, these tax cuts will either all be extended or all be expired. We seen this dance before.
- If a progressive has to choose between those two, she must choose the latter — let them all expire. Period.
3. This position takes advantage of the only real leverage in the game. For once, not acting is a win. All Dems would have to do to win is — nothing. The Bush–Obama tax cuts expire by default.
It's telling, isn't it, that Obama and the Dems don't use that built-in super-advantage? Makes you consider what they might really be doing.
4. This position is practical for progressives, no matter what Dems do.
We got played last time (lame duck 2010) and we're probably getting played again. It will take an act of god for the billionaires who run both parties not to get their way.
Let's not compromise ourselves by buying into a "sorta OK" deal, then watch it get switched for a deal we mostly hate. Once we're on board, we're on board for the whole ride. This compromises us.
If Dems want to sell themselves and the safety net, let them do it alone, over our explicit and united objections. Strategically, this is our best shot — make them pay for the cave, make them think twice about us for a change.
Speaking of "united" ...
5. Can progressives stand together in this? I sure hope so; it would be a great sign for the future.
What do I mean by "progressives"? Here's my own idea of "entitlement reform" — You're not entitled to the name "progressive" unless you act like one.
By which I mean, when it comes to choosing between principles and party, progressives choose principles. Not a bad definition, don't you think?
(To follow on Twitter or to send links: @Gaius_Publius)