After complaining bitterly during the midterm elections that budget deficits were a tool of the devil, and using those complaints to convince people to vote against Democrats, the GOP has now agreed to the one option that will increase the deficit the most; extending the Bush tax cuts for all Americans. This is so audacious that it likely would have made Lyndon Johnson proud.
Not since Johnson criticized Barry Goldwater’s military plans for Vietnam during the 1964 campaign, and then implemented many of those same strategies and tactics immediately after the election, have we seen the type of hypocrisy that Congressional Republicans displayed with this tax deal.
This doesn’t mean that the deal wasn’t justified and won’t be good for the economy. It was and it will be. But the ability of Congressional Republicans to turn not on a dime, but on hundreds of billions of dollars, demonstrates unambiguously that they were never as serious about reducing the budget deficit and national debt as they said they were. They deserve to be called out for it.
The question of whether this ultimately will be good for Obama can’t be answered yet. If the economy picks up, and unemployment falls because of the policies agreed to in the deal, it obviously will have some positive impact on the president’s approval ratings and, therefore, reelection chances. If the positive impact is minimal and Republicans continue to blame the president and the Democrats for much higher deficits, the White House may be forced into additional spending cuts.
The administration’s willingness and ability to tackle the inevitable GOP attacks head on will be tested in the days to come. And, as the president’s statement last night announcing the deal seemed to indicate, the White House may already understand that the only way it won’t get blamed for the higher deficit aspects of the deal is to communicate far more aggressively than it has the past two years. We should know soon if Obama’s political calculation will pay off.
Stan Collender is the author of the Capital Gains and Games blog and is a partner with Qorvis Communications LLC.
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