Most parents have had the unpleasant task of dealing with a child who anticipates an outcome unhinged from reality, such as expecting a brand new Ferrari for their birthday, and depending how detached from the truth about their family’s financial situation the child is, their disappointment is nearly always founded in ignorance and fantasy. When human beings have a deluded expectation of what is considered most likely to happen, or a belief that is centered on the future that may not be realistic, an unwanted result gives rise to the emotion of disappointment. For the past week, there has been no dearth of disappointment and outrage from liberals, progressives, and Democrats who are furious with President Obama for his third fiscal cliff proposal, and their disappointment has its basis ignorance of the negotiation and governing process as well as the nature of democracy.
Early in 2010, left-leaning malcontents (EmoProgs) spent no small amount of time complaining that President Obama failed to wave his dictator’s scepter and issue edicts suspending the Constitution and giving himself unlimited power to impose liberal policies and agendas without regard for the legislative process. The problem in 2010 was that the President’s biggest critics on the left slept through government class and missed the Constitutionally-assigned powers of the three branches of government, and that as head of the Executive branch, the President’s power is limited informing that negotiation and compromise are necessary to govern a nation with varying points of view. What is uncertain, is whether or not the so-called professional left has the slightest comprehension that Americans’ political leanings cover a broad spectrum of positions, or that every man, woman, and child in America is not a hardcore liberal just because a Democrat was elected president.
A little over a month after the President won a second term, the same people are lashing out at him for proposing, as part of the fiscal cliff negotiation offers and counteroffers, Social Security cost-of-living adjustments using a process called “chained CPI” to calculate increases in Social Security benefits. Immediately following the President’s offer, the left lit up with outrage and accusations of betrayal and sell-out that led one to think he had eliminated Social Security altogether and condemned millions of retired Americans to an early death. It is good there is such a protective attitude toward maintaining Social Security and defending the elderly, but it may have been prudent to consider what it takes to negotiate a compromise with recalcitrant Republicans, and where the President came up with the idea of “chained CPI” in the first place. It turns out, switching Social Security cost of living increases to chained CPI was not only a good negotiating point, but it strengthens Social Security over the long haul.
In a paper titled “Building It Up, Not Tearing It Down” A Progressive Approach to Strengthening Social Security by Christian E. Weller published in December 2010, the Center for American Progress (CAP) made the same proposal as the President. For the uninitiated, CAP is certainly not a conservative organization, and on page 44 of their report they outlined the benefits of strengthening the Social Security Trust by adjusting the cost of living (and all government accounting) to a “chained CPI” because it is a more accurate measure of inflation, and increases the base benefits of low income Americans. President Obama put conditions and safeguards in his proposal to protect seniors near poverty as well as safeguards to guarantee no person collecting Social Security will live in poverty. In fact, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi was asked whether she considered chained CPI a cut in benefits and she answered, “No. I don’t. I consider it strengthening of Social Security” which is precisely what the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities and CAP said in endorsing the President’s fiscal cliff offer. Chained CPI is not a benefit cut, because benefits are determined by a workers lifetime earnings, and at best the President made a small concession to get Republicans on board to prevent the economy from going over the fiscal cliff. For angry liberals, it is important they learn that compromise as a negotiating tactic is how democracy works.
The other issue that seemed to set the left on fire was the President’s compromise of $400,000 as the cutoff point for maintaining Bush-era tax cuts that admittedly is higher than his $250,000 figure during the campaign. Critics accused the President of caving to Republicans, but not only did he meet the GOP half way, his number is $100,000 less than is suggested by Center for American Progress in their December 2012 “Reforming Our Tax System, Reducing Our Deficit” proposal for deficit reduction and fiscal health of the nation. It bears repeating that CAP is the polar opposite of the Heritage Foundation or any conservative think tank, and they are the experts in Progressive matters.
It is unclear why so many on the left are fickle in supporting this President, or why they lack rudimentary understanding of negotiations, compromise, and good governance. One might be tempted to believe that in the excitement of just having avoided America’s death knell at the hand of a Romney victory, or a winner’s confidence that the entire nation would embrace any Progressive edict issuing forth from a victorious President Obama, but it is simpler than that. The anger and opposition to the man they just helped elect is founded not in reality, but an imaginary belief that America is a far-left nation panting for a progressive government and the end of the Republican Party. However great the President’s re-election was, Republicans still exist, they are in control of the House and the nation’s purse strings, and 47% of voters supported Romney’s presidency. One thing President Obama understands that many on the left cannot is that Americans are politically diverse and that to garner support to govern efficiently, the President must make compromises in order to negotiate or the country would come to a screeching halt.
What is evident is that many on the left labor under the same misconception as Republicans that governing is unilateral, and failure to make concessions for the country is what has led to the dysfunction in Washington. Perhaps the President’s left-leaning critics are unaware the Republicans control the House of Representatives, or that they control appropriations for the entire country. However, it is more likely that the critics were never the President’s supporters after all, and one would think they would recall the horrific results of the 2010 midterms and year-long criticism by EmoProgs and liberal talking heads like MSNBC’s Ed Schultz who encouraged his audience to “sit out” the 2010 midterms to show their disapproval of the President and Democrats for not enacting their favorite policy whether it was single payer healthcare or multi-colored Unicorns in every home.
This President’s success at reviving the economy and winning re-election was based on his ability to govern from the center, and understanding that without compromise the entire country suffers. When the President accepted a two-year extension of Bush tax cuts for all income earners including the very wealthy, many on the left went berserk, but they ignored the benefits of tax cuts for every American, unemployment insurance extensions, and a payroll tax holiday that helped save the economy and assist struggling families. The President’s latest offer to Republicans to avoid the fiscal cliff is a similar situation, and yet, instead of giving him support regardless a small concession, he has been labeled a traitor, backstabber, and myriad other labels typical of a spoiled and petulant child who did not get the shiny new Ferrari, or unicorn, they were certain their parents would give them. It is time for angry liberals and EmoProgs to take a lesson from the President who, no doubt, would love to be king of America and pursue a unilateral Progressive agenda, but he is aware that Americans occupy opposing ends of the political and ideological spectrum, and that to get anything accomplished, negotiation and compromise are as critical as well-laid plans. It is distressing that before his second term even begins, he is being lambasted by his so-called base for offering a Progressive policy they misidentified as caving.
Compromise is a difficult concept for ideologues regardless of their political leanings, and for the past four years Republicans have given the nation a good look at what failure to compromise does to governing, and the people. One expects Republicans to complain loudly when they do not get their way, but after the 2010 midterm debacle, it was certainly not expected the left would finish up the President’s term the way they started, or would lash out before learning what, and where, the President’s propositions came from. However, that is precisely what happens when a person has high expectations based on fantasy and ideology, and after watching the devastating effects to the country from Republicans’ ideological rejection of compromise, it is disappointing to see some liberals falling into the same trap. Maybe instead of adhering to an ideology of no compromise that will never succeed in a diverse democracy, those on the left can support this President because he has proven time and time again that not only does he negotiate from a position of strength, he has succeeded in saving this country’s economy and is working for every American; conservatives and liberals.