Is a shrewd Obama playing the Republicans to make them look bad?

A friend wondered to no one in particular if Obama was being shrewd and manipulating Republicans in the fight over the debt ceiling, just to make them look bad.

I agree that they look bad — and national polling seems to suggest that I’m not the only one.

But… Obama is clearly too smart a guy to play chicken with the economy, as the Republicans are doing. Of course, damaging the economy and jeopardizing the recovering and trashing the US credit rating is clearly not in his interest.

But there are two minds at work in the House majority.

One set are, indeed, playing a very cynical game of destructive politics — since damage to the US economy hurts Obama and the Democrats — but does not hurt the Republicans or the wealthy who they clearly perceive as their constituency — since the fitful recovery has actually benefited the wealthy out of all proportion to the middle class and poor. As the economic numbers clearly indicate — the super rich are doing very well — they just don’t want to talk about it because they don’t want to see the Bush era tax cuts for the wealthy allowed to expire.

The other set are the so-called ideologues who are also willing to trash the economy because it fits their simplistic and moralistic, mutant perversion of fiscal conservatism, convinced as many of them are that is is the poor who are dragging the country down.

It’s this latter group who largely parallel the thinking of so-called “paycheck conservatives” — hourly and salaried individuals who are doing pretty well but who see a good chunk of their gross income withheld in taxes but who, largely out of ignorance of the tax system and its systematically designed set of loopholes which allow the wealthy to manipulate the tax system via often elaborate and clever “wealth retention strategies” and who consequently end up paying only a sliver of their paper tax rate, appear to believe the Bush era tax cuts are to their advantage, if not now, then in the future.

The paycheck conservatives see their own tax rate — see how much is taken out — and, many of them aspiring to make more money, think that the way forward will be effectively blocked by higher tax rates as they make more money. And, up to a point, that’s right.

But, just as it ‘takes money to make money’ — it takes discretionary wealth — not tied to sustaining oneself and family — in order to take advantage of those loopholes and exploit the wealth retention strategies that are open to the rich by virtue of their greater surplus income.

Having some familiarity with the nature of how this works by virtue of both experience and insights gained from having such a wealth retention specialist as a client for some years, it strikes me as sad that so many people are so mad at the wrong people.