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Mickey Edwards
Political leader

Mickey Edwards

Former U.S. Congressman, Mickey Edwards is vice president of the Aspen Institute, where he directs the Institute's Rodel Fellowships in Public Leadership.

Obama allowed himself to be politically boxed in

Question: In a high-stakes game of political chicken, President Obama appears to have bowed to Republican threats to block the extension of tax cuts to the middle class--and all other legislation--unless a similar tax cut for high-income households was also included. Is this realistic bipartisan compromise after a sobering election, or is it a sign of weak leadership?

There is a good chance the public, and Republicans in Congress, would have agreed to exclude the very wealthiest Americans from the continued lower tax rates. But the president allowed himself to be put into a political box by agreeing to define the super wealthy as anybody with a family income of $250,000, even if that income was derived from two workers each working two jobs and living in high-cost-of-living cities. While the left railed against tax breaks for "billionaires," that is not what was on the table. In the end, the president had to compromise because he had staked out a position that was untenable, especially in a time that required providing families with more, not less, disposable income.

By Mickey Edwards

 |  December 6, 2010; 2:23 PM ET
Category:  Accomplishing Goals , Congressional leadership , Crisis leadership , Government leadership , Managing Crises , Political leadership , Presidential leadership , Self-Sacrifice Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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It is almost as if the 'compromise' was designed to fail. $250,000 in annual earnings doesn't make anyone especially wealthy these days, certainly not if one is supporting a family. So the option the President offered was a dumb one: did he not realize this? To be without a strong leader as president is disastrous for the nation. Was Bush really much worse? The Democrats caved in to Bush and they caved to the Republicans despite holding the White House, the Senate and the House for two years. If the Republicans take over in 2012 I can't believe it will be that much worse for the country. In fact a speedier ride to economic disaster may benefit us by bringing on the revolution sooner.

Posted by: farhorizons | December 12, 2010 11:47 AM
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The left has a strange political need to bash the wealthy with zeal and hatred beyond anything reasonable or fair. Yet the crying need of current economics is to create GROWTH in America, not more taxes.

President Obama kind of grasps this despite his inclinations toward class hatred, but only after everything else failed. He is like a drowning man thrown a rope as he's going down for the third time.

The truth is...without GROWTH we can't get out of this mess!

Arthur Laffer graphed an idea on a napkin, and Sen. Bernie Sanders is way too stupid to comprehend the picture. Laffer's chart captured the principle that Jimmy Carter never grasped, Ronald Reagan embraced and evangelized about, and which benefitted Bill Clinton and Bushes I and II by creating recovery and prosperity that lasted a quarter of a century.

America was once the locomotive of global prosperity. It's time to get the locomotive back on track!

Posted by: micoz1 | December 12, 2010 12:36 AM
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It is time to stop playing games and stand up to the republican bullies. Republicans are no longer a political party, they are a cult. We are paying these people a quarter million per year plus perks for nothing. It is time to call their bluff. When they enacted this Bush tax package it was agreed that it would expire and expire it should. This country cannot afford to subsidize these disgustingly greedy people any longer.

We need to quit covering up for the repubs and make them solve the countrys problems. If we give in again it will not only have to be faced again in two years, it opens the door to destroying social security and medicare, a dream the repubs have had for years. It benefits the rich much more than the poor. As a person who makes around twenty-five thousand a year I want to say that I have never understood how two hundred thousand could possibly be middle class. It raises taxes on people below forty thousand , the very people who can least afford it. It adds 850 Billion to the deficit. It stinks as an agreement and I don't care if my taxes do go up I want my counrty taken back from the traitorous slime-balls who waant to destroy it.

What we need in this country are a whole lot more Bernie Sanders.Bless him and all who take back our country . When you have 80% of the people with you you are doing ok.

Posted by: takebackourcountry | December 11, 2010 7:50 PM
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I would add to Congressman Edwards' comment that the Republican leadership was apparently willing to pay a high price to extend all the Bush tax cuts for the remainder of President Obama's first term and the opportunity for a Republican presidential candidate to run on the issue in 2012 and rail about an even higher deficit. They gave in on a lot of tax expenditures that they normally would not support and extended unemployment benefits. Now President Obama must call the bluff of the Republican Party about deficit reduction in his State of the Union address and the FY 2012 budget. Republicans for their part will look like hypocrits if they try to deny the President some wins on deficit reduction. In 2012, Obama will run either as a Bill Clinton clone who can cut deals or a Give 'em Hell Harry Truman because the Republican Congress won't do what they said they would do---and Obama might be able to do both.

Posted by: Viewpoint2 | December 10, 2010 4:57 PM
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Obama has been "boxed in" politically since the day the '08 election when he & McCain both fell for the Bush White House trap and attended an economic crisis summit meeting at which they had neither power to shape the outcome nor independent advisers to offer explanations or alternative proposals. The photo ops & silence of both Obama & McCain gave a tacit endorsement to TARP, not just in principle but down to the details in how it was implemented, e.g. free money to support Wall Street bonuses for Paulson's golfing buddies. After accepting TARP as it was defined for him, all of his other principles fell like dominoes.

Posted by: SageThrasher | December 7, 2010 12:44 PM
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Mr. Edwards has it right. A dumb political move of locking in at $250,000, then overplayed his hand and then his bluff was called. No choice but to fold.

The WH has looked amateurish politically on so many things, many are beginning to wonder just how smart Obama really is.

Posted by: foozler | December 7, 2010 11:30 AM
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He was really boxed in by the extension of unemployment benefits. I think he could have won the argument on the middle class tax cuts, but the unemployment benefits made him compromise.

Posted by: jjj141 | December 7, 2010 10:36 AM
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Not true, there are a many ways to provide relief! Of course, Barry has no desire to shift monies from Repug states, from military adventures, from corporate welfare, from war profiteers, from Congressional earmarks, from the millions of pigs at the treasury door! The man is a cowardly traitor, plain and simple, in lock step with Repugs, Corporate Fascists, and Christian Thugs!

Posted by: CHAOTICIAN101 | December 7, 2010 10:15 AM
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