by Ray Fleming

EVENTS in Washington over the past week have not been a good advertisement for American democracy. As President Obama said a few days ago, “Why is it impossible to do business in this town without always taking it to the last moment?” Some might argue that his own detached style of negotiation has somethimng to do with the problem but, of course, it has been a feature of Washington life for a long time.

At the time of writing everyone is waiting to see whether the Republican party which controls the House of Representatives will accept or reject the agreement on taxes reached by the Senate at 2am yesterday. As far as it goes this agreement, devised by Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, is a win for President Obama -- the first increase in taxes for wealthy Americans for two decades. It does not go as far as Obama wanted but the principle has been established and middle-class and poorer Americans will benefit. Also in the agreement are many of those small deals which don't get publicity but in this case will also help lower income groups and protect the “socialist” social security and Medicaire programmes.

Will the Republicans really risk opposing this deal in order to defend the one per cent of Americans earning in excess of $400'000 annually from any tax increase? Surely not.

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