Leading article: Mr Obama's depressing realpolitik

Share
Related Topics

It marks a low point in the political cycle in the United States that Barack Obama has been forced to extend George Bush's tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 per cent of Americans which were due to expire at the end of the year. Mr Obama had been happy to extend the cuts for most Americans but had promised in his 2008 election campaign to scrap them for those earning more than $250,000 a year.

Last month's Congressional elections changed all that. The resurgent Republicans have demanded cuts for everyone and Mr Obama has had no option but to climb down. With the Republicans now controlling the Senate a new political era of compromise has dawned. In order to get extensions for benefits for the long-term unemployed, the President has had to concede more tax cuts for the rich. He is also to freeze the pay of federal workers.

Mr Obama could have said No – and blamed the resulting tax rises for everyone on Republican intransigence. That would have saved almost $4 trillion in lost revenue over the next decade. But the political cost would have been too high. Taxes would have increased by $3,000 for the typical family and that could have cost the economy a million jobs.

More than that, the President has to pick his fights. He needs Republican ratification in the Senate if the centrepiece of his foreign policy – the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty – is to go ahead, cutting US and Russian deployed nuclear warheads by 30 per cent. He would also dearly like to get agreement on ending the US military's "don't ask, don't tell" ban on gay people serving openly in the armed forces – on which he has made significant progress – with the Pentagon recently conceding that a change would not adversely affect combat readiness. He may still even hope for progress on more realistic immigration laws and perhaps some moves to combat carbon emissions, though his cap-and-trade bill now seems doomed.

There is a realpolitik to all that. Still, it is depressing that he has had to make concessions to a group of politically-inconsistent deficit hawks lobbying for tax cuts for the rich. Their position is not hard to decode. It is a "reward the rich, hammer the poor" agenda of the most unattractive kind.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Sales Manager

£60k - 80k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Politics of hope needed to avert flight to margins

Liam Fox
 

Cameron's speech was an attempt to kill immigration as an election issue

Andrew Grice
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game