Liberals felt rightfully disgruntled with the president's capitulations during fiscal-cliff negotiations. Obama abandoned his hard-line stance that tax rates must be increased on incomes over $250,000. Instead the deal made the Bush tax cuts permanent for the vast majority of the country, with rates only rising for individuals earning over $400,000—hardly a sensible definition of the middle class. Yet as he gave up his leverage on automatic tax hikes, Obama's compromise bill punted the sequestration cuts until March 1 and left the necessary hike of the debt ceiling as a lingering threat for the nihilistic House Republicans to exploit for further cuts to discretionary spending.
But along with the tax-rate hike on top incomes, Obama did win a few minor concessions when Congress averted the fiscal cliff. Emergency unemployment insurance for the long-term unemployed was extended until January 2014 and a host of tax credits for the poor and middle class were extended for five years, all providing needed assistance as the economy continues to sputter along toward recovery. The latest round of unemployment figures released Friday morning provided a useful reminder of just how necessary that additional stimulus remains. The economy added just 155,000 jobs during December and the unemployment rate held steady at 7.8 percent. The job-creation numbers wouldn't be so lousy during normal economic times; the figure is slightly above the expected monthly population growth. But it's hardly adequate during a time when millions of Americans continue to struggle in their search for a job. At the current pace of job growth, we won't reach a normal level of unemployment until the 2020s.
While Obama may have finagled a bit of stimulus out of the fiscal-cliff deal, it's hardly enough. More than $100 billion in budget cuts—split evenly between military spending and the general discretionary budget—will pull needed funds from the economy on March 1 unless the president and Congressional Republicans reach an accord to delay the reductions. We might not be poised for another recession, but unless the government continues to prop up the economy, we're set for a bleak decade of woeful recovery.
So They Say
"A month ago, or a few weeks ago, I said I wasn’t interested. It was kind of like you’re about to graduate, and they said: ‘You gotta go to summer school.’ But [the fiscal cliff deal] now means that February, March, and April are going to be among the most important months in American financial history."
—Barney Frank,Error! Hyperlink reference not valid. his wish to take over John Kerry's Senate seat as an interim replacement
Daily Meme: ICYMI, Obama Won
- Obama's re-election was made official today, when a joint session of Congress tallied up the electoral college returns, giving the president 332 votes to Mitt Romney's 206.
- Birthers, despite their best efforts, were unable to stop the vote-counting tradition.
- In case you were worried, the vote also affirmed that Uncle Joe is still our veep.
- The final popular-vote tally was 51.1 percent, making Obama the first president to get more than 50 percent of the vote twice since Eisenhower.
- Next up are the oaths of office, which will take place on January 20 and January 21, thanks to the official start day being on a Sunday.
- The NYC Board of Elections also released its complete election results—although it didn't continue the '08 tradition of listing out all the write-ins. Now we'll never know if Socrates and Tina Fey did as well as they did in '08.
- Although the official election business may be finishing up, the 2012 election postmortem business remains evergreen. Nate Silver took a stab at what dwindling swing districts means for the future.
- Republicans went on a long cruise to the Caymans to think about what they did wrong.
- Sasha Issenberg continued to unpack the Transformer-like qualities of the Obama campaign.
- And political scientists kept trying to figure out why turnout was so low.
- Brookings released its big look at the election today, trying to explain why Obama won (SPOILER ALERT: It was his campaign that did it)...
- ... while Ralph Nader tries to find the narrative thread connecting the 1912 electionto the 2012 one.
- So, no need to fear that we have nothing to talk about after the fiscal cliff. There's always 2012.
What We're Writing
- Sarah Laskow argues that Promised Land isn't trying to save the environment. It's trying to save small-town mythology.
- E.J. Graff writes that the shocking assault in India reveals that rape isn't about sex—it's about controlling women's lives.
What We're Writing
- Jon Huntsman used to be a keyboardist for a band called Wizard. That is all.
- Although there isn't much action to stop outside money on the national level, plenty of states are making the effort.
- Sahil Kapur unpacks the Violence Against Women's Act "long road to oblivion."
- Alec MacGillis explains how Washington learned to love hostage-taking.
- Alex Pareene says that when it comes to the House Republicans, we're dealing withidiots.
- Or, as Joshua Green calls them, "utterly hapless. Not mildly or endearingly hapless like Betty White on Golden Girls but Three Stooges hapless."
Poll of the Day
The country's obesity epidemic is a concern for most Americans, but they're unsure if they want the government to tackle the problem. According to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll, only one-third of the country wants the government to pass laws to combat obesity. Around 60 percent of Americans oppose any taxes specifically designed to target unhealthy foods.