President Obama put himself in a precarious political position this week by reaching a compromise on the extension of all the Bush tax cuts. The deal, which some Democrats believe is skewed towards the wishes of conservatives, puts Obama in a maelstrom between raging members of his own party and chronically uncooperative Republicans. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Tuesday there may be Democrats who jump ship with the president's wishes. A local member of the House appears to be one of the first overboard.
In a piece for the Huffington Post, Rep. Pete Stark sharply criticized Republicans for employing fear tactics on the rising deficit for their own political means, while looking the other way for extending tax cuts for the richest Americans. "In 2008, with a Democratic President and Congress, the Republicans suddenly found religion on the deficit," wrote Stark. "If Republicans want tax cuts for the wealthy, we should demand that they explain how to pay for them right now."
Stark was also a signer of Vermont Democrat Rep. Peter Welch's stinging rebuke of the president's proposal in a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Welch called the plan "fiscally irresponsible" and "grossly unfair" to the majority of Americans. Extension of the tax cuts may add $900 billion to the deficit.
Stark believes Republicans, once in the majority next year, will "flip-flop" back towards the rhetoric of deficit reduction while targeting cuts to social programs. He did find some bright spots in the deal, notably a 13-week extension of unemployment insurance and tax cuts for working families with children, but on the whole, he will not support the president's compromise.
"These are important provisions that I want to see make it into law," said Stark. "but I cannot support them when they are coupled with outrageous deficit spending to benefit the rich."
It's notable that Stark tread lightly by not criticizing the president, but instead challenged Democrats to mimic Republicans and stand their ground saying, "protecting the middle class is the right thing to do."