By Matthew Rothschild on January 02, 2013

Pres. Obama managed to hang-glide over the fiscal cliff, and was fortunate that a progressive wind blew him back to safety.

Because of pressure from his base, Obama resisted his own temptation to cut back on Social Security.

And because of pressure from his base, he succeeded in raising taxes on the rich.

And because of pressure from his base, he extended much-needed programs that help the needy, like unemployment insurance and the earned income tax credit.

It wasn't a perfect deal.

As Robert Reich and others have pointed out, it left the President and the country in a potential hostage-taking situation in just a matter of months, as it did nothing to increase the debt ceiling.

But I was frankly surprised that Obama didn't give more ground, since he had signaled a willingness to do so.

I wasn't surprised, though, that the super-rich got a big part of what they really wanted: which is a huge break on the estate tax.

If there hadn't been any deal, the wealthiest Americans upon their deaths would have been able to give their heirs only $1 million tax-free. Now they'll be able to give their heirs $5 million tax free, as they were able to last year (though the rate on anything above that will rise from 35 percent to 40 percent).

That's one Bush tax cut for the super-rich that survived virtually intact.

And that's the one they cared about most.

But on balance, the agreement was a net plus.

It restored some progressivity to the income tax code, both by lifting the marginal income rate on those above $400,000 and by increasing the rate on dividends and capital gains for that same group.

It helped out the unemployed and the working poor.

It at least postponed sharp spending cuts, which would have put growth on the skids.

And it contained no cuts in essential programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

So I agree with Sen. Bernie Sanders. This deal was "a small step forward."

And Sanders and other progressive leaders, who pressured Obama to hold his ground, deserve our thanks.

If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story "Farewell to Four Progressives Who Died in 2012."

Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter.

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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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