In meetings last week, several Democratic Senators were critical of Barack Obama's inclusion of a $3,000-per-job tax credit for business in the stimulus plan as potentially unworkable and unlikely to create jobs. See Sen. Harkin: Obama's Plan looks like "trickle-down"; Summers: "Message Heard, Loud and Clear" (referring to Senators Kerry, Conrad and Harkin).
Obama is serious about collaborative decision making. He listened and has now acted:
Bowing to widespread Democratic skepticism, President-elect Barack Obama will drop his bid to include a business tax break he once touted in the economic stimulus bill now taking shape on Capitol Hill, aides said last night.
More about progressive feedback and why it's essential to Obama and all of our success, after the fold.
Obama suggested the $3,000-per-job credit last week as one of five individual and business tax incentives aimed at winning Republican support. He proposed $300 billion in tax relief in a bill that could reach $775 billion, and he resurrected the jobs-credit proposal from the campaign trail as one of his main provisions.
Stronger opposition came from Democrats, who dismissed the $3,000 credit to employers for every job created or saved as ripe for abuse and difficult to administer. When no champion for the proposal came forward, the president-elect decided to sideline the incentive.
"We've always said we're open to other ideas. This was never set in stone," said a senior Obama adviser of the decision.
Obama advisers said further adjustments may be made to the president-elect's tax priorities, including to a proposed $500 payroll tax credit for individuals. Many Democrats have criticized Obama's idea of distributing the benefit over 12 months, saying it would amount to about $20 per paycheck for workers who are paid every two weeks. They would prefer to distribute the credit over a shorter period.
For the last eight years, progressives have been fighting a losing battle against Bush, Republicans, and, at times, even members of their own party.
You can see that here in a 2003 speech that told truth to power in the Democratic Party:
What I want to know, what I want to know, is what in the world so many Democrats are doing supporting the President's unilateral intervention in Iraq? [cheers].
What I want to know, is what in the world so many Democrats are doing supporting tax cuts which have bankrupted this country and given us the largest deficit in the history of the United States? [cheers].
What I want to know, is why the Congress is fighting over the Patient's Bill of Rights? If the Patient's Bill of Rights passes, is a good bill, but not one more person gets health insurance and it's not five cents cheaper.
What I want to know is why the Democrats in Congress aren't standing up for us joining every other industrialized country on the face of the Earth in having health insurance for every man, woman and child in America? [cheers, chants "Dean"].
What I want to know, what I want to know, is why so many folks in Congress are voting for the President's education bill -- "The No School Board Left Standing Bill" -- the largest unfunded mandate in the history of our educational system? [cheers].
As Paul Wellstone said -- and as Sheila Kuehl said when she endorsed me -- I'm Howard Dean, and I'm here to represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party. [cheers].
Some of us have been part of the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party for a very long time, going back to the 1960s when many fought for civil rights, against an imperialistic war, and for economic justice. Some go back to Teddy Kennedy when the party attempted to throw off its centrist President. Others came with Jesse's Rainbow. Some were repelled by Clinton triangulation. Others fought with Dean. Some discovered their politics with Barack Obama, John Edwards, or Dennis Kucinich. Others became radicalized on the streets, in activism. Some come from the environmental movement. Call us leftists, liberals, progressive populists, whatever, but we are left of center and believe real, fundamental change is essential. We support unions and a green transformation of our economy. We support civil rights for all, including marriage rights. We oppose expansion of the American Empire and seek to cut their war machine.
I feel the events of the last six months vindicate all those who fought the Reagan dismantling of the New Deal, all those who fought for so long for economic fairness. Free market fundamentalism failed. It was morally wrong and empirically unsuccessful. As in the 1920s, it drove this nation into Depression. People forgot in the 1980s what led to the Depression. We must make sure people do not forget, because the wealthy and business interests will continue their war against work and workers. The truth is their enemy. So we must tell truth to power.
The question we face now is what do we do with the most liberal president since 1968 (LBJ on domestic issues) and yet one some of us feel can be too centrist at times. How do we act in order to maximize the change that is created, as well as building a progressive movement for the future?
An answer can be seen in these events. People in Congress spoke up and criticized. They did not just accept whatever Obama proposed. To do so would disrespect Obama and the entire process. And Obama did not attack the critics. He listened and adjusted his policy.
This is what I think we must do. We fight for what we believe is right. We tell Obama where we disagree, respectfully, but firmly. We may not get all we want, but it appears that Obama will listen and act at times. That's a big difference. How much did progressives influence Bill Clinton? Not a lot.
We are part of the Obama coalition. That means providing honest feedback, supporting when we think a policy is right, and opposing with constructive criticism when we think it's wrong.
For Obama and all of us to suceed, we must work for real change. In the end, I believe Obama is more on our side than he is not. I believe he stands with working people and his core values are with us. But Obama needs us to push the policies leftward.
As FDR said:
I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it.
Franklin D. Roosevelt Comment to a group of reformers.
His point: Until they lead the way, they shouldn't expect leaders to follow.
We must lead the way, if we want real change. That is the role of the progressive netroots now that Bush is gone.