There is no more pungent example of the rot at the heart of American democracy than the charade playing out in Washington this week over extending Bush-era tax cuts. Long story short, beleaguered middle-class families and individuals will be denied continued tax relief unless the wealthiest Americans can still have their cake and eat it too.
And make no mistake, while Republicans have held hostage the tax-cut extension package and a vitally unemployment benefit extension provision appended to it, the Democrats also have been shamelessly stroking the tummies of the Mercedes and BMW crowd. How else to explain why they were unable to muster the 60 Senate votes that could have undercut a Republican filibuster on two votes, one that would have raised tax rates for couples making over $250,000 and individuals making $200,000, and another to end tax breaks on incomes exceeding $1 million.
There is an alternative -- letting tax cuts for all Americans expire in the service of long-term solvency, thereby indirectly protecting Social Security and Medicare.
But as sensible as this may be, even in the waning days of their congressional majority, the Democrats are nothing if not cowardly and rightly fear that the ceaseless Republican talking machine will make political hay out of this bit of common sense, as it surely will since the most likely outcome is a two-year tax-cut extension, which means the whole issue would have to be reprised on the eve of the 2012 elections.
Oh, and it also would help if Barack Obama reconnected with his testicles.