September 22, 2011

THE PROBLEM BEING...:

Obama's Tax Déjà Vu (MATT BAI, 9/22/11, NY Times)

After several dispiriting months of watching their president try and fail to find consensus with Republicans, liberals are once again feeling buoyant this week. That's because President Obama has at last adopted a defiantly populist tone, unveiling a proposed tax increase on the wealthy as his signature issue --for however long this particular phase of his peripatetic presidency lasts.

Even as he reassures the Democratic faithful, however, Obama is taking a significant political risk. That's because both parties always find themselves confined, to some extent, by historical narratives left over from the 20th century. If you're a Republican, for instance, you might just have some great idea for reforming social programs for the poor or elderly, but the problem you confront is that Republicans are always vulnerable to charges of not caring about the poor. Even an especially moderate Republican who advanced such proposals would probably spook a lot of independent voters who remember Ronald Reagan's "welfare queens" and ketchup as a vegetable. That's why it took Bill Clinton, a Democrat, to sell welfare reform -- a Republican idea.

Tax increases are the Democratic equivalent. No matter how popular such a tax increase may be in isolation, Obama's proposal is very likely to affirm the fears of some sizable contingent of voters who pulled the lever for him last time -- fears that he is, at bottom, a conventional liberal of the 1970s variety.


...that governing like a Republican has gotten him in so much trouble with his own base that he has to try and convince them he's a conventional '70s liberal.


Posted by at September 22, 2011 7:25 AM
  

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