The Battle for the Middle in America

Last night, televisions tuned to C-Span spontaneously combusted as Senate Democrats unexpectedly “turned” three Republicans and effectively spiked President Bush’s $1.6 trillion tax cut plan, reducing it to $1.15 trillion.

Bleeding-heart biased screed version

Zealot bootlicker rag version (they really don’t have much to say about this)

How did the Dems do it? They made the fiscally conservative Education President and his Senate cohorts an offer they couldn’t refuse: they diverted that money to education and paying down the national debt.

That same day, Senate Democrats tried to further erode the tax cut by proposing $100 billion in funding guarantees for defense spending, which Republicans partially fended off. And, Dems floated a big, fat farm subsidy amendment, forcing Republicans–the farmers’ friend–to offer a smaller counterproposal.

Are you seeing what I’m seeing? Paying down the national debt? Defense? Who’re the conservatives around here? Or perhaps more accurately, where are the liberals?

What do y’all think of these latest dance moves on the back-lit disco dance floor that is the United States Congress?

I really don’t care who does what. I think that the tax cut is excessive and that the national debt should be reduced before anything else is done. What ever happened to the people who used to worry about the legacy (debt) we were leaving our children. Also now that I’m approaching retirement, we don’t need to make big tax cuts until we solve the problem of the “boomers” retiring. If the Democrats want to do what I’m for, well obviously I’m all for it.

I see the tax-cut plan as part of a trend 1) to concentrate more and more wealth into a smaller number of hands and 2) to simultaneously to distribute the lack of wealth to a greater number of hands (kind of follows from 1)).

I think that at some point the pendulum is bound to start swinging the other way.

I think any attempts to reduce the size of the tax cut while reducing the national debt are great. What kind of farmers are we talking about? Corporate or family? I’m all for support of family farmers, but I don’t think large corporate farms need any kind of support. But these are just the opinions of a guy who leans to the left on issues of economics and power.

A la pared companeros!

It works for me. Sure, money still goes to the wrong places, but at least in lesser quantities. And Bush blows a fat wad of political capital by failing to pass his initial tax cut. I’ve quibbles, but not many real complaints.

Heh heh heh. Nice moves, Dems! My basic take on farm subsidies is always to tell the welfare-dependent bums to go get real jobs, so I’m not so thrilled with that move. But the whole thing is genius from the viewpoint of political give and take.

Here’s the deal: If the Dems just fight everything they’re opposed to, they’re going to lose every single time. They don’t control anything in D.C., for crying out loud! So by making deals with moderate Republicans on issues that they’re less concerned about, they can torpedo the really big stuff, like Bush’s ever-growing giveaways to the super-rich.

Well played, sirs, well played!

Yep, I’m with ya, minty. I’ll go one step farther and say that I’m actually happy about this. I’m a bleeding heart who also wants to pay down the debt and keep a stout national defense. Therefore, these latest actions throw the Dems straight into my lap as if they were a nude co-ed.

My thinking is that the current situation has the chance, probably a small chance, to do two good (in my opinion) things:

  • The situation is forcing the Democrats to adopt a positive approach toward issues that are important to me and on which they have up to now been fractious.

  • Liberal Republicans in the Senate have shown they have the potential to run the whole goddamned show. This might force the entire Republican party to shift slightly toward the center as well.

There is a third possible result which might occur which I secretly cherish, but which I also fear may cause more harm than good. If both parties make a mad dash for the center, the super-socialists and the fundies both get left out in the cold. While I would like to see them both dropped, it’s a little disconcerting to think about what they might do if left to their own devices.

I haven’t really had time to think about what would be bad things about a national shift to the center. I’m sure there are a lot them.

While this can be spun as a huge defeat for Bush, think about this. You are celebrating a One Trillion Dollar tax cut. Before Bush, no one was talking about a tax cut, now they’re passing it. Is it just me, or could it be that Bush proposed a tax cut that was larger than what he really wanted…so when the Democrats met him halfway he’d get what he really wanted?

Ah well. I think the balance of forces is pretty good right now. A moderate conservate president, moderate conservate consensus in the house, moderate conservate consensus in the senate. Sounds about perfect for me.

I agree with Lemur, didn’t Bush in his campaign promise have a tax cut of less than a trillion? It just seems to me that Demos got scared and didn’t take bigger cuts out of it.

The current budget flap points out once again that there is no truly conservative federal party in politics anymore. A truly conservative national party would be attempting to shrink the federal government, letting states handle as many issues as possible, and reducing federal taxes to the bare minimum needed to provide a common defense and enforce civil rights in recalcitrant states. Against this concept would be the liberal vision that the federal government can solve any problem, and should attempt to do so.

Of course, this political debate got slam-dunked by the liberals as a result of the Great Depression, followed by the Second World War. Since that time, when the Republican party damn near got eliminated at the national level before it realized that it had to modify its views from the laissez-faire concept of Taft and his successors and adopt a different set of stripes, all that gets argued between the parties is WHO gets the money, not whether the federal government should be involved in all aspects of life that need ‘fixing’. Republican priorities: defense, law enforcement, private education, transportation; Democrat priorities: public education, environment, social programs.

And, in a recent trend, even the Democrats seem to be losing liberal steam. Mr. Clinton was elected twice because he didn’t think that the federal government should be involved in wealth redistribution and agressive attempts to equalize social standing. The really liberal wing of the party finds itself crying in the wilderness more and more often. Given that Mr. Gore can be viewed as having lost the presidency in large part because he was viewed as being more liberal, not to mention the failures of Mr. Mondale, Mr. Kennedy the youngest, and Mr. Dukakis for similar reasons, it isn’t hard to understand why the Democrats would try a makeover of their own.

Of course, as the current President is showing, any time the two parties attempt to position as moderate, the attempt should be viewed with great skepticism. The need to keep the wings happy will always preponderate except during the rhetoric of an election. IMHO.

I don’t disagree with you, DS, but what happens if one party suddenly realizes that they have a chance to increase their power base by ignoring the fringe and snapping up a chunk of the middle of the road types?

The guaranteed funding for the military appears to be just such a ploy. Dems think about it a second and say, “why not?” If they don’t get it, they can remind those who support such a thing that the Republicans gave it to The Man instead (yes, this is hyperbole, for brevity’s sake). On the other hand, if they do get it, they can smooth over things with the rads by saying the money was going to go to The Man anyway, so what do you really care? It’s a win/win.