For all the rancor coming out of the House Democratic Caucus, its members are once again missing the proverbial forest for the trees, and that is this: The Republicans will take over control of the 112th Congress in January with a 49-seat margin. I am not sure what Nancy Pelosi and others don’t get about this reality, but the truth of the matter is that if the Democrats “shellack” President Obama from his flank and cause this tax package to fail in conference (after the Senate votes), then they are in for a rude awakening come January 2011.
What concerns me about the Democrats’ posturing is what it means for the unemployed, who are disproportionately black and Hispanic. The national unemployment rate is at 10% (9.8% to be exact), but for blacks it is almost 17%. For black men in certain states, it is well over 25% (Great Depression levels). For persons who hold a college degree or higher, the unemployment rate is less than 6%. That is a critical fact that the Democrats need to consider as they play politics with this tax package. Education is linked to long-term financial success in America. To me, the president is right in negotiating college tuition tax breaks, etc, in this package because that ultimately will benefit Americans and the economy. And in the black community, I think we all agree that education is the ticket out of poverty and financial deprivation.
Elections have consequences, folks. The president understands this and I think he has been quite shrewd in negotiating a 13-month extension of unemployment benefits from a GOP Caucus that is very sensitive to increasing the national debt. As former President Bill Clinton said at the White House last week, “this is the best deal we are going to get.” Clearly House Democrats do not understand they lost the election badly last month. People also need to consider that the central issue of the 2012 election will be whether or not the tax cuts should be made permanent. So the arguments that these cuts are going to hurt the nation long term just don’t float. The challenge, of course, for President Obama will be whether he can convince his base that the deal is in the best interests of the nation.
But here is the point that we, as African Americans, must consider: If the Republicans come to power in January and there is still no deal on the table, then what? What happens to all of those who are out of work, and who in our community are most disenfranchised and likely to be unemployed long term? This to me is the real issue. And for middle-class blacks and small business owners like me who pay taxes and who will keep their tax rates low in this bad economy, hopefully we can create more jobs and train more people to get jobs.
Finally, there is another way to look at this, as Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote in his column on Friday: “Barack Obama won the great tax-cut showdown of 2010 — and House Democrats don’t have a clue that he did. In the deal struck this week, the president negotiated the biggest stimulus in American history, larger than his $814 billion 2009 stimulus package. It will pump a trillion borrowed Chinese dollars into the U.S. economy over the next two years — which just happen to be the two years of the run-up to the next presidential election.” I agree. Obama is brilliant in how he played his hand.
There was also news from the White House yesterday that the president is open to looking at the current tax code in 2011 to see how we can make it more simplistic and business friendly. It does not take a rocket scientist to see that President Obama is moving to the center and that he is ready to work with Republicans to win a second term in 2012. My point is this: The tax deal that is on the table is a good one. For African Americans who are out of work, this bill extends another year of unemployment benefits, which will be literally lifesaving to many. Yes, the bill will add to the deficit in the short term, but this is the fix we are in as a nation. We cannot tax and spend our way out of this fiscal crisis, America. History proves it does not work and it shrinks the economy versus growing it, as we all want and need. Democrats, cut your president a break. Trust him and let him lead.
Sophia A. Nelson is a noted national media commentator and opinion writer for many outlets including The Washington Post, CNN, FOX News, MSNBC, NPR, Essence & BET.