Tom Rinaldo's Journal
Member since: Mon Oct 20, 2003, 06:39 PM
Number of posts: 15,376
Number of posts: 15,376
Granted, opinions on this board about President Obama’s ongoing role in fiscal talks range from calling him a masterful strategist to a piss poor negotiator. Common sense argues that the truth likely lies somewhere in between. But from our perspective of grassroots democratic activists, it really doesn’t matter. The President has his role to play, and we have ours. Even if Obama is a Ninth Dimension Grand Chess Master, the act of our observing how he plays the game changes the game itself. When we stand on the sidelines and cheer or jeer, we are simultaneously part of that game, no matter how small our individual roles. The position of pawns alters the field of battle.
Call it physics, call it chess, call it politics or the democratic process; not only does the game effect us, we are the frigging game. We’re in the stands, we’re on the field, and we even own the team. My feelings about President Obama, love him or hate him (and I’ll say more about that below), are inconsequential compared to the “games” ultimate outcome. More than any other person in America, the President’s role in determining our future is crucial; such is the power of the office he holds. Like millions of other Americans, I worked hard to put Barack Obama back into that office. Like millions of other Americans I still celebrate his victory. But the election now is over and my role in the game has shifted.
Constitutionally Obama can call on and expect my loyalty as he would of any American citizen, politically though it’s a different matter. As a candidate I made it my duty to help carry Barack Obama over the finish line to victory in November. But the nature of my loyalty is fundamentally different in regards to him as an office holder; it shifts back onto the agenda that Obama represented as my candidate. It does so whether I like him or hate him as an individual, whether I deeply respect or disparage of his political skills. It does so without being personal, personally I wish Obama only well.
What the President needs from me now is simple. When I back him on an issue he needs to world to know, and I’m sure he feels the same way about us all. When he takes a stand, and I support that stand, he deserves and needs my vocal support. He should count on that wind at his back when he leads us where we asked him to head. However Obama no longer needs my help convincing people to make him President. He is President. Now it is about results. How, as activists, do we help achieve the best possible outcomes on issues? Not, I would argue, through loyalty to a man, but rather to a mission. And if that mission wavers, it is right to cry out an alarm. This does not harm Obama, nor does it hurt either his cause or our own, assuming that cause is one and the same.
Because we are in the game even as we observe it, our reactions can affect outcomes. If a squeaky wheel gets the grease than a silent wheel will rust in peace. And that’s how it’s been for liberals for too long. There’s a cliché in politics that pundits love to tell, all of us have heard it. When complaining from the Right equals complaining from the Left, that’s the true place for a compromise. What does our loyalty to Obama, the man, bring him, when our relative passivity only serves to weaken his negotiating hand – if his aim is the same as ours? And in an instance when it may not be, when Obama might welcome a deal that we reject, what interest does our loyalty then serve?
There is no harm in advocating for what we actually believe in, especially when the ball remains in play and the outcome is not yet certain. There is no harm in making an alternate case, when the case that is being made falls short in its dimensions. And there is no harm is seeking more, when less is not close to being enough. They are voices that should be hear regardless of the outcome.
I like Barack Obama, I like him a lot actually. In the realm of national politics I think he’s about as honest as they come. I find him sincere, and I find him compassionate. President Obama has many leadership qualities that I admire, and it often makes me proud to hear him speak on behalf of our nation. Our President is a very intelligent man. When the Left goes off key and begins to sound too strident for mainstream American ears, Obama knows how to play us off against the middle to his benefit. I can’t begrudge him that talent, it makes for effective politics. He knows both how and when to milk the stance: “I’m willing to disappoint some on my own side” to strengthen his overall standing. Obama can take care of himself
But there are times when the Left speaks loudly and eloquently in a language that most Americans understand and respond to immediately. It happens on the topic of income inequality regularly, and it does on defending the most vulnerable among us also. I don’t need to be insulting toward our President to make this observation; he is acclimated toward the status quo. Obama’s orientation is to accommodate powerful existing interests, to grant them choice seats at the table, while working to moderately improve the lives of average Americans.
Sometimes that method reaches the best achievable results, other times it undersells the chance for more significant and beneficial changes. I know this for certain though. The more the Left succeeds in shifting the political center in America away from the Right, the more good work this President will accomplish. .
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Sun Jan 6, 2013, 08:00 PM (5 replies)
In a few weeks we will have spent all of our new tax revenue for 2013 dealing with a single weather related emergency. 61 Billion for Sandy times ten comes to 610 Billion Dollars - damn close to the amount of new revenue the fiscal cliff deal is projected to bring into the treasury over the next decade. More frequent Super Storms are forecast to hit the U.S. in coming years due to global climate change. It could be that we just failed to raise the new revenue needed just to pay for all of the weather disasters likely to hit the U.S. over the next ten years if they start becoming annual events. And already Republicans are making their predictable grumbling noises about not appropriating money to respond to national disasters without simultaneously cutting spending somewhere else.
Conservatives insist that we don't have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem. Well increasingly it looks like we now face a huge spending problem in part because of their decade long denial of the science of global warming.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Thu Jan 3, 2013, 04:02 PM (4 replies)
I am inclined to believe that this was the best deal we could get with this President, with this Congress, at this time. Assuming the House passes it, a lot of major questions and decisions just got kicked down the road, but not very far down that road. "The game" is heading into extra innings. The final score remains undetermined.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Tue Jan 1, 2013, 08:02 AM (38 replies)
People knoicking at the door to announce that someone's ultimate dream fantasy has just come true: You won! You're Rich!!! Do you know what their current ultimate windfall promise to some lucky American is? It's that you might open your front door to discover that YOU HAVE WON $5,000 A WEEK FOR LIFE!!!
Party Time! Tears, Cheers! That comes to an annual income of $260,000 a year! And if the current fiscal cliff negotiations go through as outlined, your family will still be able to earn another $190,000 a year on top of that without having a cent of your temporary Bush tax cuts taken away.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Mon Dec 31, 2012, 08:06 PM (10 replies)
Mid field has as much turf extending to the right as it does to the left. And when a team runs a fullback up the middle he plows into the center of the opposing line. Middle still means middle in football, but obviously not in American politics. Families earning $250,000 or more per year fall into the top 2% of income earners in America today, yet many talking heads insist (with strong Republican and some Democratic backing) that income level still falls within "the Middle Class". WTF? Since when does sitting on the two yard line place you in the middle of the field?
I hear the arguments that emanate from a privileged bubble. It’s true that a really nice home costs a lot more in some areas than in others. So do really nice restaurants. Areas that are desirable to live in for one reason or another often have higher costs than less desirable areas, all of this is true. So? The vast majority of Americans are priced out of living in nice homes in those areas; that is a fact of life. Have we gotten to the point where being wealthy in America is defined as the ability to write unlimited blank checks, and everyone who can’t gets called “Middle Class”?
Watching TV earlier today I was told about the challenges facing a “Middle Class” family earning $250,000 annually while living in a nice neighborhood in an expensive city with two kids in college each costing them $30,000 a year in tuition. The message, I assume, was that “these people are not rich.” Maybe yes and maybe no; rich to an extent is a subjective marker. Here is what is not subjective though. They still earn more than 98% of American families. If they can’t easily afford everything they want, what about the rest of us? There are parents working full time in the exact same expensive cities, in jobs paying at or near the minimum wage. How many families in America have kids who can’t afford to go to college at all, not even to public universities, without first being burdened with a life time of college loan debts?
Really, what is the point of language anyway when we gladly make a mockery of a words obvious meaning? The top 2% equals the 98th percentile. Perform that well in school and an A+ grade is assured, even if two people in a hundred might score a fraction higher. Yet when it comes to personal incomes middle essentially is being defined as less than a rarified maximum. That’s like saying that the Rockies can’t be mountains because the Himalayas are higher.
And here’s the thing. Even under Obama’s initial proposal everyone gets a tax cut on the first quarter million they make each year. If 98% of us really fall into the “Middle Class”, we all will keep our tax cut on that “middle class” income. That means for anyone out there having to scrape by on just $285,000 a year, Uncle Sam would only get another small nibble on $35,000 of that total figure. The total average annual income for seniors on Social Security is barely over a third of that. Yet Social Security may remain at risk for budget cuts next year, while we worry about the fortunes of families only making $300,000 a year, because we can’t ask them for more sacrifices; they are the “Middle Class”.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Sun Dec 30, 2012, 04:30 PM (19 replies)
When Congress talks about taking money away from the elderly and the sick and the disabled; when Congress talks about cutting essential services for the impoverished and the working poor; when Congress debates whether it can afford to pay for the losses from Hurricane Sandy: THAT IS A REVENUE PROBLEM - not a "spending problem. If we have a spending problem it is that we aren't spending enough, not nearly enough, on upgrading this nation's infra structure to remain economically competitive in the global economy, and THAT is a revenue problem.
Why do we have a revenue problem? Because corporate lobbyists write our tax codes and billionaires buy a Congressional team to play ball with them the way George Steinbrenner bought free agents for the Yankees. The rich have done fabulously well in America since Ronald Reagan became President, the rest of us of fared poorly.
Every last dollar that the wealthy manage to permanently keep from George W. Bush's temporary tax cuts is clawed from the flesh of those who must struggle to survive while the rich still thrive. There is no such thing as "austerity" for the top 2% in America - at worse they might face some pangs of delayed gratification, or be forced to get by with only owning one or two very comfortable homes.
Social Security was adequately funded, the surplus was dispersed as tax breaks for those who never needed them. The American people want Social security protected, not "strengthened" by shaving back benefits and pretending that less equals more. We know where the revenues we paid for went. The Democratic Party can't pretend not to know also, and it will pay a price if it tries to. If the elites that the Republican Party works for want to maintain the stable social fabric that provides for them so well, now is the time for them to reign in their attack dogs.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Fri Dec 28, 2012, 09:15 AM (31 replies)
It is officially still now in play. Unofficially... it is still now in play. I do not subscribe to "1984" logic. War is not peace and peace is not war. When Obama says he would accept a deal that includes a Chained CPI on Social Security it really means... Obama will accept a deal that includes a Chained CPI on Social Security.
No doubt there is strategy and counter strategy at work. It would not be politics without it. There are those in fact who believe that Boehner had Obama convinced that the big deal was close at hand, which is why Obama offered the Chained CPI because Boehner convinced the President that is what he needed in order to get the votes. Maybe yes, maybe no. The opposite theory could also be true. Obama might have offered it now knowing the Republicans would reject it now, believing that the Republican response would strengthen the Democratic hand.
Either could be true but even if it is the latter that does nothing to convince me that Obama isn't willing to include the Chained CPI as part of the final deal, whatever it is whenever it is reached. I still take Obama at his word. The offer was and is legitimate. All of the inside chess analogies pertain to one thing only. How much will Obama get out of the Republicans on other aspects of the coming deals that will be made in return for that concession? The Fiscal Cliff will not stand unaltered in the next session of Congress. Obama is planning to give the Republicans the Chained CPI in return for that classic Sports World vague entity called "a player to be named later". That is where Obama's maneuvering lies.
Obama has thrown Republicans that bone and they will not allow it to be pried out of their jaws once it has been thrown to them. Republicans do still control the House. "Cuts in entitlements" is the biggest scalp left that they can come out of the coming talks with. It is the only political cover the Republican House can go home bragging to their constituents about later. Obama may have increased the value of that Social Security concession through clever political timing, by underlying how reasonable he is to the public while spotlighting how dysfunctional the Republicans are
Obama may well have just tricked the Republicans into going over the fiscal cliff and taking the blame for it. That gives him more leverage after January, true. It does not however give him dictatorial powers. A deal will be cut and a deal means that both sides get something out of it. There are many items on the negotiating table now, and the Republican hand is now weaker, but unless there is a Congressional Democratic revolt, Republicans will ultimately leave that table with what Obama promised them for their trouble, the Chained CPI for Social Security. That is the only scalp left of political value to them.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Fri Dec 21, 2012, 08:18 AM (168 replies)
That is NOT what Democrats, yourself first and foremost, were just elected to do. You won't be the one who feels the pain you now are willing to agree to, nor will Americans earning between $250,000 and $400,000 a year.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Wed Dec 19, 2012, 07:32 PM (143 replies)
They are about seizing power and using it for their own ends everytime, and they only "negotiate" when all other routes are closed to them. The Bush tax cuts NEVER were popular, polls at the time showed most peole saw them as a giveaway to the rich. Bush LOST the popular vote to Al Gore in 2000. Republican paid staffers mobbed the offices in Florida when the recount was taking place. Republican appointees to the Supreme Court over rode the State of Florida Courts and forced the recount to end - giving the electoral votes to Bush. The Supreme Court then went out of it's way to insist that their ruling should not be seen as establishing any legal precidents. Once in office Bush pushed through his tax cuts over almost unamimoust Democratic objections (one of two supporting Democratic Senators later defected to the Republican Party. The The Senate wsa tied 50/50, and Dick Cheney cast the deciding vote.
The Republican Party didn't worry about public opinion or seeming "reasonable" then, they flat out used their power to grab what they wanted. They don't care about it now either. Republicans don't care that the American people strongly support letting those tax cuts expire on all incomes over $250,000, as the recent election showed. They don't care if Americans say don't touch Social Security and Medicare. They want what they want and Americans will just have to learn to deal with it once they get it. That is the Republican way.
Republicans have no shame over making a laughing stock of the Senate with systematic Fillibuster abuse. They have no remorse about bottling up Obama's judicial appointees at a record pace. Republicans seize and wield power, all other consideratons are secondary at best. Democrats are the ones who worry about "seeming reasonable". Even when we win the elections and the public is on our side, we stand ready to give the Republicans through "negotiations" what they can not win at the ballot box.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Wed Dec 19, 2012, 05:38 PM (8 replies)
Letting the Bush tax cuts on the rich expire is settled law. They are scheduled to end by stature, but on a more profound level that law was settled by the public in a presidential year national election. The 2012 elections were fundamentally about making the rich pay their fair share. Obama won in a landslide. Against all odds and expectations, Democrats also picked up two seats in the Senate, and Democratic candidates for the House got more votes overall than Republicans, while Democrats there picked up 8 seats. Voters took preserving tax cuts for the rich off the table and Democrats should never have put it back on. That flies against the public will, and the public is equally adamant about protecting Social Security. Overwhelmingly polls say they Americans don't want those benefits cut
Republicans insist that we still can afford letting Americans earning over $250,000 a year to keep getting tax cuts that were designed to be temporary. Clearly our backs can't be against the fiscal wall with such low hanging fruit left unplucked. Yet Obama is willing to take $112 billion out of the pockets of current Social Security beneficiaries over the next 10 years alone, and hand it over to Americans making ten to twenty times more than the average person on Social Security annually has to live on. That is income redistribution of the worst kind. It mandates putting the squeeze on the elderly and the seriously disabled, people no so called “job creators” will ever hire no matter how much Bush tax cut savings they manage to keep pocketing.
Yes the American people expect compromise, but not the sort that compromises the health and well being of the least among us. After the rich pay their full fair share, then we can look at what further revenue increases and budget cuts are needed to bring our fiscal house in order. That will take more revenue increases not less, and yes further spending cuts too. The Bush tax cuts for the wealthy have been fully litigated in the court of public opinion; they belong to history now. With that as the starting point let negotiations begin next year, after we cross over the fiscal cliff.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Wed Dec 19, 2012, 03:28 PM (8 replies)