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'Fiscal Cliff' nonsense shows again that Obama is no 'Lincoln'... Maybe Millard Filmore -- or even James Buchanan -- is more accurate historically?

Below I'm sharing Robert Reich's New Year's Day blog about the Obama approach to the "fiscal cliff." But before going there, I am hoping now that the New Year is upon us that at least some historically literate people will stop comparing Barack Obama's administration to the Lincoln administration (which is how Obama would like to frame the narrative, with the help of some historians and publicists) and put Obama in the proper historical context: with the majority of presidents who saw compromise -- especially over the expansion of slavery -- as the main way to go. I'm even thinking of producing bumper stickers for those of us who knew "Barack" back in the day when he'd deign to hang out with Chicago Teachers Union people.

James Buchanan, who once served as President of the United States, was praised for his ability to compromise with the states of the South. He was succeeded by Abraham Lincoln, who eventually learned that there are some things upon which you should not compromise. The bumper sticker would read:

BARACK, YOU'RE NO LINCOLN. TRY BUCHANAN INSTEAD...

I'll leave it to those who love to Google to develop this argument, only to say that every time Obama "compromises" with monopoly finance capital and their propagandists and servants on this stuff, I keep thinking of all those historic compromises that led up to the U.S. Civil War -- and know why my heroes from that era included John Brown and Thaddeus Stevens. Basically, despite the hype, Obama is more in the tradition of the presidents who compromised (maybe not as odious as Buchana, but closer to Polk) with slavery than the one who fought it.

Millard Filmore. There were several presidents in the years leading up to the Civil War who were once praised for their ability to compromise over the expansion of slavery, thus "saving" the union at the expense of the form of property in the USA that amounted to between four and five million human beings by 1860. History does not necessarily judge those who favored "compromise" favorably when the light of subsequent events shines upon them.

REICH ADDS DEPTH TO THIS DISCUSSION, FROM HIS BLOG ON NEAR YEAR'S DAY 2013.

Lousy Deal on the Edge of the Cliff, By Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog, 01 January 13

The deal emerging from the Senate is a lousy one. Let me count the ways:

1. Republicans haven't conceded anything on the debt ceiling, so over the next two months - as the Treasury runs out of tricks to avoid a default - Republicans are likely to do exactly what they did before, which is to hold their votes on raising the ceiling hostage to major cuts in programs for the poor and in Medicare and Social Security.

2. The deal makes tax cuts for the rich permanent (extending the Bush tax cuts for incomes up to $400,000 if filing singly and $450,000 if jointly) while extending refundable tax credits for the poor (child tax credit, enlarged EITC, and tuition tax credit) for only five years. There's absolutely no justification for this asymmetry.

3. It doesn't get nearly enough revenue from the wealthiest 2 percent - only $600 billion over the next decade, which is half of what the President called for, and a small fraction of the White House's goal of more than $4 trillion in deficit reduction. That means more of the burden of tax hikes and spending cuts in future years will fall on the middle class and the poor.

4. It continues to exempt the first $5 million of inherited wealth from the estate tax (the exemption used to be $1 million). This is a huge gift to the heirs of the wealthy, perpetuating family dynasties of the idle rich.

Yes, the deal finally gets Republicans to accept a tax increase on the wealthy, but this is an inside-the-Beltway symbolic victory. If anyone believes this will make the GOP more amenable to future tax increases, they don't know how rabidly extremist the GOP has become.

The deal also extends unemployment insurance for more than 2 million long-term unemployed. That's important.

But I can't help believe the President could have done better than this. After all, public opinion is overwhelmingly on his side. Republicans would have been blamed had no deal been achieved.

More importantly, the fiscal cliff is on the President's side as well. If we go over it, he and the Democrats in the next Congress that starts later this week can quickly offer legislation that grants a middle-class tax cut and restores most military spending. Even rabid Republicans would be hard-pressed not to sign on.

Robert B. Reich, Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written thirteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock" and "The Work of Nations." His latest is an e-book, "Beyond Outrage." He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause.



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