It's not at all clear that the agreement between President Obama and congressional Republicans to extend expiring tax cuts and unemployment benefits and create new tax cuts took the best ideas from both sides, as a good compromise should. Although it too will pump more money into the economy and thus result in job creation, as with the Democrats’ stimulus package, this bipartisan deal focuses at least as much on what is politically popular with its architects as on how to get the most stimulus bang for the least federal deficit buck.
But the disturbing reality is that our politics have become so poisoned in Washington — and that poison is so gluttonously devoured by the extremes throughout the country, on both the right and the left — that “bipartisan” has been dumbed down to mean convincing one or two members of the other party to sign on to a partisan proposal. The situation is so bleak that the mere fact that any agreement would be made between the president and what we once quaintly called the loyal opposition is a step forward.
As disturbing as it is that a president of the United States would feel a need to explain to anyone, let alone his allies, that “This country was founded on compromise,” it’s also a hopeful sign that the president now finds himself in a position where he can or will say that. Mr. Obama has spent plenty of time attacking congressional Republicans — often deservedly so — and did so again even as he defended the compromise, comparing them to “hostage takers.” But he also took an overdue, though tamer, swipe at the extremists in his own party, whom he rightly accused of being “sanctimonious” in seeking ideological purity rather than working for the good of the country.
(It would be laughable if it weren’t so pathetically typical of the double-speak that pervades the Capitol to hear our own Sen. Jim DeMint opposing the package because the 13-month extension of unemployment benefits would add to the deficit, while in the same breath demanding that the deficit be driven even higher by a permanent expansion of the Bush-era tax cuts.)
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