[Democrats] were calling for a tax cut, after all, and they had Republicans tying themselves in knots explaining why the party of Reagan and Tea didn't want lower taxes. All the Democrats wanted in exchange for extending the reduction was a small increase in how much the wealthy paid -- a position that was widely popular among voters.And then Senate Democrats caved, without a peep from the President, despite his "big speech" in Kansas last week on economic inequality.
So what did Democrats get from the apparent deal to avert a government shutdown? A measly two months' extension of unemployment benefits and the payroll tax cut with the extraneous inclusion of language to force a decision within 60 days on the Keystone XL pipeline. No millionaire's tax. And it's not like tax cuts are the most effective form of economic stimulus anyway -- and this one takes money from Social Security.
Let's get a little historical perspective here. Political scientist Sven Steinmo, in his book Taxation and Democracy (1996), wrote that polls had long showed that Americans thought a major problem with the tax system was that the wealthy didn't pay enough tax. Yet the political system then, and in the 15 years since, has been delivering "tax reform" that has done exactly the opposite, reducing taxes on the rich. One has to question exactly how democratic a political system is that cannot deliver a reform favored by a large majority for at least 30 years.
So, here we stood on the verge of getting at least a little movement in the direction favored by a big majority, and Senate Democrats pull the rug out from under us again. As the Occupy movement has pointed out, something is very rotten in the state of American democracy.
As I wrote earlier, we face lots of hostage-taking opportunities in the future, especially if we are getting shutdown-averting deals that only last two months. If the Democrats keep caving in at this rate, they could give away most of the welfare state by election day.