Here are the president's comments on the deal worked out today on taxes:
I am a little tired of thinking and writing about this issue, but I am even more tired of reading the media coverage which is much too preoccupied with trying to figure out which party gains politically and which party loses; who wins and who caves.
What this looks like to me, as someone who spends a lot of time negotiating settlements of legal disputes, is a "win-win" settlement. That means neither side got exactly what they wanted, but both sides were able to satisfy important interests. And the alternative to this deal would have meant failure for everyone, because both sides were agreed that they wanted to preserve tax breaks for the middle class, and if they couldn't resolve this issue, then all of the Bush tax breaks, including those for the middle class, would have expired at the end of the year. To avoid that, they had to extend millionaires' tax breaks for two more years, but in return Republicans agreed to substantial additional tax breaks for working families. In addition, the negotiators won a thirteen month extension of unemployment benefits. (Ezra Klein's summary today of what he called an imperfect, but not bad deal, is here.) (My somewhat pessimistic predictions of a few weeks ago, expressing some doubt that the parties would be able to work this issue out like grown-ups, can be found here.) All in all, this is an impressive stimulus plan that will help get the economy moving again, which seems more important than trying to score political points about whether rich people have been getting too big a break on taxes for the past ten years. (They have, ok, but we will just have to deal with that problem a little later.)
What may be even more important and impressive is just the fact of being able to make a deal at all, and especially one that satisfies the most important interests of both parties. That is a rebuke to those on both the left and right who would prefer to fight, rather than negotiate, with the other side, even if that means gridlock and failure. To achieve that kind of result in the wake of a highly polarizing election, is something we should feel proud of. Maybe others were expecting something different, but I supported the Obama campaign mainly because he promised to bring interest-based negotiation (that might be a technical term for what in politics we should just call representative democracy), to Washington, instead of partisan gridlock. Today, once again, President Obama delivered on that promise.