Tell Me About It

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The chief of staff for a Democratic senator writes in regarding Axelrod’s seeming willingness to forgo a permanent extension of the Bush middle class tax cuts:

It’s hard to know what to make of David Axelrod’s tax policy comments to the Huffington Post, and Dan Pfeiffer’s subsequent denial, other than maybe it was a trial balloon that got shot down, or maybe Axelrod went further than he was authorized to go.

In any event, the White House and the Democratic congressional leadership made a terrible political mistake by avoiding a fight with the Republicans on this issue before the election, when it could have clearly demonstrated the hypocrisy of the GOP’s constant harping about deficits, as well as their most critical concern: the “plight” of the poor rich people.

Astonishingly, instead of pressing our political advantage–which was also clearly the right policy choice, as well — we flinched (in truth, in response to the political concern of members from high-income states). Voters could have had a last and important impression about who was on their side and who wasn’t, but gracious to a fault, we didn’t want to anger anyone, and the result was predictably awful.

Now it appears that we may well make the same mistake again (unless you assume the HuffPo writer got it wrong, and I don’t). If that’s what we do, it will make President Obama’s many comments about fiscal responsibility an utter joke — how can we talk about decimating Social Security, raising gas taxes (which hit low and middle-income folks disproportionately hard), raising fees for veterans’ health care, messing with student loans, etc., when we’re going to blow a $700 billion dollar hole in the budget because of our concern for folks who make $250k and over, who are doing more than fine? Or because those bad Republicans are just too mean?

There is a prevailing view among many people that both parties are dominated by the rich, and that voting doesn’t really make a difference. If we want low and middle-income Americans to think we don’t have the spine to fight for them, then how are we going to convince them to vote for us? If David Axelrod has an answer for that, I’d like to know what it is.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.

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