Hold the high-fives. President Obama's apparent victory on the fiscal cliff is more like a late-game touchdown that is still being reviewed by replay officials.

For one thing, Obama's decision to agree not to impose higher taxes on incomes between $250,000 and $400,000 will result in far less revenue than he needs to get. There were similar concessions on dividends and capital gains, and a huge giveaway on the estate tax, which will benefit only the richest of the rich. As a result, Obama's deal will bring in just 40 percent of the planned revenue.

Secondly, it was troubling that Obama was willing to compromise despite his recent election mandate. During the negotiations, he reportedly offered up a new formula for calculating the Consumer Price Index, which would have resulted in a decrease in Social Security payments. This inclination to abandon his base and core principles of his party is not promising.

There are positives to the fiscal cliff deal worth noting, though.

Pressure from labor and other progressive groups helped save Obama from himself. This coalition advocated hard for a deal that did not trade away key parts of the social contract in cutting the deal. In the end, this worked. Unemployment compensation was extended for those in temporary need. The earned income tax cut for the working poor was bolstered. Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security also were not traded away for weak tax hikes. The package, to a small extent, addressed even alternative energy.

The real key, however, was decoupling the Bush-era tax cuts. The fact that the middle class and the wealthy were financially linked in the tax code never made sense anyway because of the nation's huge wealth gap.

But no one should sleep. There are more battles waiting on even more important issues, including a battle again over spending cuts to the social contract.

Compromise is part of politics, but the social contract -- that bedrock principle of a humane existence and democracy in the United States -- must be preserved above all. Too many have fought for it for too long for a Democratic president to give it up now.

Brian Gilmore is a poet and public interest lawyer. He can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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The new head of the Environmental Protection has a history of suing the agency for trying to do its job.

The reach of this story extends from the lowliest working stiff to the highest court in the land.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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