Tim Fernholz is a former staff writer for the Prospect. His work has been published by Newsweek, The New Republic, The Nation, The Guardian, and The Daily Beast. He is also a Research Fellow at the New America Foundation.
Tax deal apologist that I am, it behooves me to offer some constructive criticism, too, along with a reminder that this deal isn't final until the legislative process makes it so: Congressional Democrats, unable to unify around an original proposal, may try and adapt this framework. Here are a few changes they want:
Of its estimated $900 billion-plus cost over two years, roughly $120 billion covers the high-end tax cuts and the estate tax cut, $450 billion covers Mr. Obama’s wish list and $360 billion covers the tax cut extensions both parties favored.
"By a vote of 53 to 36, the Senate defeated a proposal to extend tax cuts first on those earning up to $250,000 in income," Capitol Hill's Roll Call explained over the weekend. It was a typical Senate defeat, where a majority supported the losing measure and a minority achieved a filibustered veto.
It's been well observed in Washington that it doesn't cost much to filibuster: Senators don't have to speak or stay on the floor of the Senate. They only need to say a few words to their leaders, and the whole institution grinds to a halt. The public, of course, doesn't see that level of detail, which makes things difficult for those interested in reform -- but that could change.
One galling aspect of the tax deal framework proposed by the White House and Senate Republicans is that emergency unemployment insurance became a policy option that had to be bargained for, rather than a given during tough times:
In October 1983, with Republicans controlling the White House and the Senate and the national unemployment rate at 8.8 percent, extended benefits were reauthorized for 17 months. The benefits provided up to 24 weeks of help for workers who exhausted state aid.