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Tax compromise: Obama finally sets a bipartisan model

A compromise deal with Republican leaders that extends the Bush tax cuts to all Americans puts country ahead of party. Democrats may howl, but the nation is better off with political progress instead of warfare.

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Many Democrats strenuously object to President Obama’s compromise with Republicans to temporarily extend the Bush tax cuts for all Americans. But Mr. Obama correctly judged that the nation needs a bipartisan deal in Washington more than it needs a political showdown.

“We cannot play politics at a time when the American people are looking for us to solve problems,” the president said Dec. 6. That sounds more like the old Obama, the one who said there’s neither red nor blue America, the one whom voters backed in 2008.

Just like the moribund economy needs a confidence boost, so does America’s politics. Leaders in Congress and the White House must show the public that Republicans and Democrats can work together on urgent and controversial issues such as the previous president’s tax cuts, set to expire at the end of the month.

By creating a degree of certainty on taxes where there previously was none, progress on the political front can help build momentum on the economic one. In a Washington frozen by icy political conditions, compromise must triumph over particulars.

Not that the particulars don’t matter. Many Democrats are howling over the two-year extension of tax cuts for households that earn more than $250,000. Obama also clearly doesn’t like this; it violates his campaign promise.

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