by Perry Bacon Jr.
Some liberals were disappointed with the agreement President Obama accepted to avoid the fiscal cliff, which included dropping his pledge to raise taxes on all income above $250,000 and not including a provision to raise the debt ceiling, giving the GOP a chance to start another fiscal crisis in less than ten weeks.
But the actual details of this agreement were almost entirely in the president’s favor. Moving off of his desired numbers on taxes allowed the president to get billions of dollars in programs for the working poor and unemployed Americans that Republicans would only agree to as part of a larger compromise.
The deal includes $30 billion to help Americans who have been unemployed for longer than six months, as well about $120 billion spread over five years to keep in place increased child tax credits for low-income families with children and those paying for college that were in the 2009 stimulus and scheduled to expire.
While cuts may come later, there are actually almost no new spending reductions in this agreement. (The cuts from the 2011 debt ceiling negotiation will still eventually occur.) Obama successfully fought a Republican push to include Medicare or Social Security reductions in this deal.
Most importantly, almost every Republican senator and more than a third of House Republicans voted to raise taxes. Yes, Obama has proposed this years, but Republicans have opposed any increase ON ANYONE for two decades. Obama not only forced them to take a tax increase now, but is promising more during the rest of his tenure to balance the national budget.
And for both everyday Americans and Obama, “going off the cliff” for days or weeks would not have been ideal. If no agreement had been reached, tax rates would have went up immediately, taking away funds from people who live paycheck to paycheck. (And the difference would have been noticable, as a payroll tax cut from the last two years has already been eliminated) And no president can govern in the midst of a Wall Street meltdown, as could have happened if no agreement was reached.
“Look, there are a lot of conservatives in the Republican caucus in the House who hate the bill for good reason. This is a complete surrender on everything,” conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer declared on Fox News, as Politico reported.
To be sure, this is far from a perfect agreement for the White House. It sets up another fiscal battle, likely less than two months away, on the federal debt ceiling. Republicans are planning to use that one, as they did in 2011, to push for major spending cuts. And Obama won’t have the leverage he had in this debate, when he could threaten a massive tax hike would happen if Congress did nothing.
More broadly, this perpetual cycle of fiscal battles is a major challenge for the administration. The White House wants to use the State of the Union to make a major push on immigration reform, as well as try to advocate for gun control laws while the public is still focused on the issue in the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
Traditionally, the president can deliver a series of speeches on an issue and help focus and perhaps even persuade the public to back his ideas. But that’s extremely hard to do in a environment with countdown clocks warning of the latest budget calamity.
The deal also keeps in place a long-term budget fallacy: the federal budget can be balanced simply by reducing spending and raising taxes on the wealthy. This deal locks into place historically low tax rates for most Americans, who will eventually either pay more or accept fewer government services over the long-term.
But in the short term, this is a major accomplishment for Obama. More than anything else in his 2012 campaign, he ran on a pledge to reset Washington’s budget-making process to include the consideration of major tax increases. Less than two months after winning re-election, he succeeded.
LeRoy Butler, Green Bay Hall of Famer and inventor of the “Lambeau Leap,” teamed up recently with AT&T, the Wisconsin State Patrol and Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee to highlight the dangers of texting and driving and urge youth to take the pledge to never text & drive.
At an event at the Mary Ryan Boys & Girls Club, Milwaukee youth had the chance to hear from Butler and safety leaders about the dangers and demonstrate AT&T’s driving simulator to experience firsthand in a safe setting how texting impairs their driving.
Students were also shown a powerful documentary produced by AT&T called “The Last Text” that shares real stories about lives altered or ended by someone’s decision to text and drive.
“Texting while driving is one of the most dangerous activities you can do behind the wheel,” said Butler, a former NFL strong safety who played his entire career in Green Bay.
“There is simply no text message that is worth risking your life over. I hope today’s event will really drive home that message, and I urge all Milwaukee youth to join me in taking the pledge to not text behind the wheel.”
Seeking to bring attention to a serious road safety problem, AT&T today urged all Americans to pledge to stop texting and driving, and to join with others on September 19 to make a lifelong commitment to never do so again.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett also proclaimed today, August 15, as a “Don’t Text & Drive Pledge Day” throughout the city and urged all residents to join him in taking the pledge to never text behind the wheel.
“Not only is texting while driving against the law, but it is also extremely dangerous,” Mayor Barrett said.
“I urge all Milwaukee residents to join me in taking the pledge to never text and drive.”
AT&T, its employees and other supporters are calling on all drivers to go to www.itcanwait.com to take the notexting-and-driving pledge – and then share their promise with others via Twitter (#itcanwait) and Facebook. The pledge effort is part of the company’s public awareness campaign aimed directly at stopping the dangerous practice of texting while driving. AT&T will spend tens of millions of dollars on its “It Can Wait” campaign in 2012 and has made it an ongoing commitment in future years.
More than 100,000 times each year, an automobile crashes and people are injured or die because the driver was texting while driving, said AT&T Wisconsin State President Scott T. VanderSanden, citing a statistic from the National Safety Council.
“Far too many people’s lives have been forever changed because someone chose to text behind the wheel, and we want to spread the word about how deadly a simple text can be,” VanderSanden said. “We’re challenging all drivers to take the pledge to never text and drive and make it a lifelong commitment.”
Today’s event focused on a simple, powerful message of AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign: No text is worth dying over. Texting is so dangerous because it takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 5 seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of a football field completely blind. Those who do send text messages while driving are 23 times more likely to be in a crash.
A recent AT&T survey2 found 97% of teens say they know texting while driving is dangerous. The survey found:
• 75% of teens surveyed say texting while driving is “common” among their friends;
• Almost all teens (89%) expect a reply to a text or email within five minutes or less; and
• 77% of teens report seeing their parents text while driving.
But technology can help: 89% of teens said a phone app to prevent texting and driving – like AT&T DriveModeTM3– would be an effective way to get them or their friends to stop texting and driving.
“In today’s world of instant communication, we know that too many of our young people are tempted to text behind the wheel – even though they know it’s dangerous and against the law,” said State Rep. Jason Fields (DMilwaukee).
“I’m pleased to join with LeRoy Butler, AT&T and the State Patrol to urge all of our teen drivers to take the pledge to never text and drive. It really can wait.”
Wisconsin’s law, effective as of December 1, 2010, prohibits sending an e-mail or text message while driving and imposes a fine of up to $400. As a primary enforcement law, officers may stop and ticket drivers solely for texting and driving. Wisconsin is among 37 states and the District of Columbia that ban text messaging by all drivers.
“Our youth often think they are invincible, but they need to know that texting while driving is very dangerous and often deadly, and they are particularly at risk as inexperienced drivers,” said Vincent Lyles, President & CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee. “We’re proud to join in this effort to help spread the word and keep our teen drivers safe.”
AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign first began in 2009. The effort is comprised of several key initiatives, including:
• Encouraging its 240,000 employees to take the pledge and urge all Americans to never text and drive.
• Bringing an in-car texting-while-driving simulator to more than 200 locations before the end of this year.
• Launching an online driving simulator at www.itcanwait.com in the coming weeks, so anyone with access to the Internet can experience the dangers of texting while driving.
• Working to provide a toolkit of no-texting-while-driving information to every high school in the country.
• Educating the public using TV ads on the dangers of texting while driving that will run during high-profile events and teen-focused programs.
• Offering a free, enhanced AT&T DriveMode app for its Android and Blackberry users that automatically shuts of texting capabilities, and offers an auto-reply to incoming texts, when a car exceeds 25 mph.
• Launching an aggressive social media campaign with advertising on Facebook and Twitter to encourage Americans to take the pledge and share it with their friends and family via social media.
• Working with TV and music celebrities to deliver a strong no-texting-while-driving message via TV ads, concerts, public appearances, Twitter and Facebook.
• Challenging device makers and app developers to have all devices include a pre-loaded, no-text-anddrive technology solution as soon as possible.
• Enlisting others – including law enforcement, educators, national retailers, consumer safety groups, legislators and the entire wireless industry – to join the no-text-and-drive movement.
• Asking over 1,000 of AT&T’s strategic and other major suppliers to encourage their employees to pledge not to text and drive.
For more information on AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign, please visit: www.att.com/textingcanwait.