According to the Wall Street Journal, George W. Bush’s first tax cut in 2001 was $174 billion. His second tax cut in 2004 and 2005 was $231 billion. As Steven Waldman of Beliefnet pointed out last week, Obama has kept a campaign promise to cut taxes that few Republicans thought he would keep.
Barack Obama has effectively blocked any Republican attacks against the stimulus bill as being nothing but a spending bill. Think about this for a second, it is Election 2012, and the Republican nominee accuses Obama of spending all of the tax payer money, and running up huge deficits, all the while calling for a return to the Bush tax cuts. Obama will counter by pointing out that his tax cut was larger than either of the two George W. Bush passed. For good measure he will add that his tax cut was larger than Ronald Reagan’s.
Next he would likely point out that the Republicans have with his tax is that most of it didn’t go to their wealthy friends. In one swoop, the GOP is framed to be the party of the rich. That is where this debate is heading. The Republicans shot themselves in the feet by not mustering up a little more support for this bill. How many Republican Representatives and Senators will be campaigned against in 2010 as having opposed the largest tax cut in history? Congressional Republicans were so happy to stand united as a coalition that they were completely oblivious to the fact that they were walking into a trap.
The debate over whether or not this stimulus bill will work is the same one the nation goes through in every recession. Republicans say no. Democrats say yes. The bill passes. It works. Republicans lose the next presidential election, and the economy gets better. Conservatives can write all the revisionist history about the Great Depression that they want, but the current crisis isn’t the Great Depression. When government becomes the spender of last resort in a recession, it helps the economy.
I am not saying that Republicans should have supported the bill. What Republicans should have done, instead of calling for more tax cuts, was offer their own spending proposal, instead of a tax cut bill. Congressional Republicans have embraced their status as the party of no, but doing so while going against what they say are their own beliefs is not just stupid, it’s moronic. Saying no together may give them unity, but it has allowed Obama to cut them off at the knees, and beat them at their own game.