A few days ago, Paul Krugman was calling on the President and the Democrats to call the Republicans’ bluff on extending the Bush tax cuts.
Let them expire, he said. I think a lot of liberals were of the same mind, figuring that what this would result in was an Obama tax cut for the middle class to be passed in the next session. The Republicans, it’s assumed, wouldn’t want to be blamed for raising taxes on the middle class.
A lot of liberals are still feeling the same way and want Congress to reject the “compromise” the President made with people he called hostage takers.
Call their bluff, we cry! See if they dare shoot the hostages!
Not that I would know, but I have a strong feeling the Republicans aren’t bluffing.
Look. They don’t care that millions and millions of people are out of work. They don’t care that millions are losing their homes. They don’t care that millions of people don’t have health insurance so that can’t even take their kids to the doctor when they’re sick.
Why would they care about all the working families whose taxes will go up if the cuts expire?
First of all, they just got rewarded at the polls for not caring.
Second, they are exempt from caring.
Their economic philosophy and their religion---the Calvinist based one most of them practice and the Randian one the corporate elites adhere to---tell them they shouldn’t care.
Their philosophy tells them: Having the government do anything to help the poor and the economically stressed gets in the way of the Invisible Hand. Left alone, the market will sort it all out to the benefit of everyone. Anyone who doesn’t benefit is A.) either not trying or B.) an unfortunately necessary sacrifice to the greater good.
Their one religion tells them:
Caring about the poor and the less fortunate is doubting God’s judgment. Your lot in life reflects God’s opinion of you. If your lot is misery, well, then that’s what you deserve.
Their other religion tells them:
Caring about the economic well-being of anybody but yourself is showing un-Galtian weakness towards the parasites. A Galt’s gotta do what a Galt’s gotta do, which is ruthlessly, relentlessly, and remorselessly pursue his or her own selfish ends or else civilization’s done for. It’s bad enough the parasites benefit the little they do from the Galts’ heroic labors. But should a Galt slow down for a moment to care the parasites will swarm all over him and pull him down and feast on his bloody hide. It’s the nature of parasites to kill their hosts. They’re too stupid to understand that by doing so they destroy themselves.
The compromise isn’t really putting fifty or sixty or however many bucks a week extra in people’s paychecks next year. It’s saving it from being taken out. And while that isn’t a whole lot of money and isn’t meant to give real relief to individuals, never mind help anybody get ahead, it would genuinely hurt most people if they didn’t have it to count on and for many, many people it would be a serious hardship to lose it.
And for the millions who would have lost their unemployment it would have been a disaster.
Of course, the compromise does nothing for people who don’t have either a paycheck or unemployment compensation.
Haven’t noticed the Republicans caring much about them either.
There’s no national election in 2011. There’s no immediate punishment waiting for them at the polls. And come 2012, either the economy will have recovered to the point that the President will be re-elected or it won’t and he’ll get tossed on his ear. Either way, the Republicans won’t be paying a price for letting the tax cuts expire, and either way they’ll be rewarded by their corporate bosses for having tried to save their tax cuts.
Besides, if it looked like it was necessary for them to save their jobs, they’d gladly bring the tax cuts back to the floor later next year so that voters’ paychecks fatten a bit come the election year.
So they can afford to play games with people’s lives. As a matter of fact, they enjoy playing games with people’s lives. Putting other people’s lives on the line is the basis of their foreign policy and their economic philosophy.
It’s all about risk, remember.
It makes them feel tough to know other people are suffering as a result of their hardheaded decisions.
They can shoot all the hostages they want and, thanks to their philosophy and their religion, their consciences are clear.