Laurence Lewis (of Daily Kos), Who's Looking for the Tooth Fairy?

As soon as I finished yesterday's piece about David Dayen's pony demands in the California budget, an orange corner of the Left ideologue blogosphere had lit up with this gem from the Laurence Lewis of the Daily Kos, accusing President Obama and the Democrats of losing their principles in the budget negotiations. Not that there's anything new about that. The same crowd has been whining ad infinitum about their claim to be The Protectors (TM) of such principles and the demonization of the President as being the destroyer thereof. So he starts with a bang, refusing any idea of a possible bipartisan solution to the federal budget:
The official statement called for a "bipartisan" approach. There seems to be a presumption that no one has been paying attention the past couple years, because the only people that still believe in bipartisanship are also likely the holdouts on Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy.
Heh, apparently, believing that the budget will take a compromise between the parties (which, oh by the way, is the only way to avoid a shutdown and fix the budget, since, you know, Republicans control the House of Representatives) is holding out for Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. But constantly asserting that if only the President would bully-pulpit, beat his chest and "push" harder, everything would be hunky dory and we'd be living in a progressive dreamland is the practical truth. What seems to be funny about Lewis' article, though, is that he at the same time seems to say: (1) Republicans are so hell bent on their ideological purity that they'll go to extremes to advance those, and (2) those same Republicans can be scared into voting for whatever it is that we want by just doing enough pushing and shoving. Am I the only one that sees a disconnect there?

And then we have the simplistic and cynical notion that with last year's tax cuts and unemployment benefits compromise, President Obama and Democrats in DC made the Bush tax cuts for the ultra wealthy "our own."
The problem is that, on economic issues, DC Democrats have forgotten how to be Democrats. By making the Bush tax cuts their own, they have removed even from discussion the most obvious means of addressing any fiscal issues.
This is pure garbage. As we have discussed more than once, the temporary extension of the Bush tax cuts for the super-wealthy was the price the Republicans extracted from the President and the Democrats so that we could also extend the middle class tax breaks (not just the Bush ones but the Obama ones from the Recovery Act), institute a payroll tax break that most benefits lower and middle income families, and extend unemployment benefits through the end of this year. Let me say it again: extension of the tax cuts for the wealthy was a price that President Obama paid for the rest of the stuff; even as he said in no uncertain terms that as a policy, he wanted those tax cuts to expire.

One can argue about whether that price was too steep, but it is intellectually dishonest to equate the price with "making Bush tax cuts their own."

But the bottom line of Lewis' article is ridiculing the President for saying that he takes John Boehner at his word that he did not want to shut the government down. How naive! How stupid! What a green-behind-the-ears president we have! I mean, what other president or other political leader - at least, the ones seasoned with some fighting spirit - has ever said that he or she takes a leader of the other party at his word? Obviously, the President's statement - which was coupled with his warning that the Republicans, having won the 2010 election, now had the responsibility to govern - could be taken as nothing other than naive capitulation.

All this, of course, does not explain why Lewis' ilk took as Biblical Boehner's pronouncement that he would vote only for the middle class tax cuts if he were forced to - even after he was forced to, and he voted no.

Of course, no faux-economic critic of the President would be complete without throwing a little bit of World War and Bill Clinton into the mix:
The post-war economic boom included vastly higher marginal tax rates than we have now. President Clinton increased taxes, erased the record Reagan-George H.W. Bush deficits, and enjoyed an economic spike that saw near full employment. Bush cut taxes and oversaw the disintegration of the Clinton surplus, the creation of the largest-ever federal deficits and an economic meltdown.
All of this is of course true. But the disconnect shouldn't be lost. The "post-war" top marginal tax rates and those under FDR were between 63 and 90 percent, whereas the top marginal rate under Clinton was 39.6 percent. It was with that tax rate that the US experienced the longest economic expansion in history as well as a full employment economy. You will hear no argument from me against the idea that a 40% would be a better top marginal rate than the current 35%.

The disconnect is also pretty stark in the sense that Lewis seems to believe that tax rates alone determine the direction of the economy. Completely absent from his tax hysteria is the basic understanding that the "post-war" economic boom came with an American industrial revolution of sorts, that President Clinton's credit in erasing the deficit was joined by a technological revolution. And while Lewis is busy praising Clinton's tax rates as he condemns Obama for seeking a budget compromise that will include additional cuts, he seems to have completely forgotten that Bill Clinton signed welfare reform that capped benefits, instituted lifetime limits and ended welfare as an entitlement. And oh, President Clinton did so by the means of a - cover your ears - compromise with Republicans.

But to say that the ideological hardliners have a propensity to demand the politically impossible would be an understatement. Of course, they told us their big idea last December: let everyone's taxes go up and forget about lowering the payroll taxes for the poor and the middle class or about helping the unemployed - give us our pony demand and raise taxes on the rich at any price, damnit! Even so, as I pointed out before, by far most of the money made by the true economic elite in this country are made in the form of capital gains, taxed at only 15%, and while we're bitching and moaning about a 5% difference in income taxes, they're laughing all the way to the bank.

Laurence Lewis and his followers and colleagues also have themselves to blame for the fact that thanks to their knee-jerk opposition and vilification of the president's fiscal commission last year, they, along with all the other national media, merrily ignored the same commission's tax recommendations, including counting capital gains as ordinary income. Keep in mind that the sooner get over the budget battle, the sooner the President can concentrate on  pushing Congress to overhaul the tax code.

But don't worry, Lewis is not completely devoid of humor. He has a funny:
The way it actually works is that every time the word [compromise] is mentioned, Democrats give ground on core principles while Republicans have to accept that they get only some, but not all, of what they want.
Of course, throughout his entire article, Lewis never defines this grand core principle. He tells us what so violates those core principles, but never once does he define the principles themselves. I don't know if "marginal tax rate at xyz%" is a principle, but he doesn't even define that. In pursuit of what grand principle we are to whack-a-mole President Obama, we do not know.

And in Lewis' mind, when the other side (that is now in charge of the House, by the way) "gets only some, but not all, of what they want," it is not a compromise. Huh? So a compromise is when one side gets all of what the want and the other side gets nothing?  Never mind politics, are we now going to have to educate the Poutragists on basic English now?

But speaking of principles, maybe this statement of principle would make sense to most progressives:
To win the future, we have to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world, tapping the creativity and imagination of our people. We have to take responsibility for our deficit, by investing in what makes America stronger and cutting what doesn’t. And we have to reform our government so that it’s smarter, leaner, and better able to take on the challenges of the 21st century.
No, it didn't come from the Professional Putragists. It came from the President's budget. And the President's budget doesn't just say that, it reflects that principle. The principle Laurence Lewis seems to exhibit is scream "YOU SUCK" at our time while they are negotiating to put together a budget and avoid a government shutdown. To me, there seems to be two kinds of people who are interested in a government shutdown: Tea Party extremists, and Lefty Whiny Poutrage artists.

The belief that compromise will be required and is possible is not unrealistic - this president has overcome worse adversity. But demanding that the President chest-beat for a tax increase in the face of a large Republican majority in the House, now that's looking for the Tooth Fairy alright. Believing that the House GOP will just accept it if you bully pulpit enough, that's believing in Santa Claus. And I mean no offense to 5-year-olds.