Calm down, Chicken Little

Calm down, liberals. Take a deep breath. I know that trusting your elected officials and being skeptical of the press feels alien and wrong, but times have changed. It’s really okay. Ease down. You’ve blown the transaxle, you’re just grinding metal.

I woke up this morning to a cacophony of Chicken Littling about the possibility that Obama might not roll back the Bush tax cuts! OMG! How could he do such a thing?

Well, if you slow down and read the fine print, he didn’t. Here’s what he actually said.

“Whether that’s done through repeal, or whether that’s done because the Bush tax cuts are not renewed, is something that my economic team will be providing me a recommendation on.”

So the question here is whether the tax cuts for the wealthy are repealed in 2009 or allowed to expire on their own in 2011. And he’s not saying he won’t repeal them, just that all options are on the table to be considered along with the rest of our economic policy. That doesn’t sound as scary. It actually sounds kind of, you know, rational.

I’ve seen this happen almost daily since the election. The media, and their audience, is so used to everything going to hell sans handbasket that they immediately jump to the worst possible consequence of anything coming out of Washington. But the new guy is such a fundamental change from the smirking chimp currently occupying the Oval Office that this approach doesn’t make sense anymore. I find myself in the distinctly uncomfortable place (no, not the backseat of a Volkswagen) of having to trust the politicians and be skeptical of the press. Because every time I’ve seen this happen, it sounds horrible until I actually read what Obama said and say, “Oh, well, that sounds okay.”

It really does come down to trust. I trust Barack Obama to be smarter than me and do the right thing. I’ve trusted Bush for eight years to be dumber than me and try to screw me over, but that different. I know that Barack Obama knows everything about politics that I know, plus a lot that I don’t know, even stuff, with apologies to Rummy, that I don’t know I don’t know. And I trust him to weigh all of that against itself and make the right call for our long term prosperity and security.

And the key to that is “long term.” Politics is the science (and art) of compromise, and if we want the changes we get in an Obama administration to endure, a simple numeric majority in Congress isn’t enough. We need Republicans who might, even though it looks more dubious with every Sarah Palin photo op, be back in charge someday to have some sense of ownership over these changes.

Think about this like a chess grandmaster, looking several moves ahead. Obama knows that historically, our economy has tanked after every tax cut on the rich and rose after every tax hike on the rich. But he also knows that we’re going to be running a serious deficit for at least most of his first term as we try to spend our way out of this recession (the only proven way to get out of a recession), so the money lost to the Bush tax cuts between 2009 and 2011 is just a factor in the size of the deficit, not the cause of one. So if he extends this potential olive branch to the Republicans (and their super-rich constituents), does that grant some Republicans the political cover they need to step across the aisle and pass universal healthcare or a new New Deal to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure?

So stay calm, trust that Obama has his eye on the big picture, and don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s going to be okay. Rational adults are in charge now, give them room to do their jobs.