Calling Any Fiscal Conservatives Republicans in the House to Stand With Democrats against Tax Cuts for the Rich…… Crickets.
As the issue of extending Bush’s tax cuts takes the center stage (in spite of Republicans trying to hide their fiscal failures behind twinkly talk of cutting all earmarks), Americans are left to wonder if there is even one Republican who will take a stand for fiscal conservatism. Just one?
Because we need a Republican or two on board to pass the tax cuts for the middle class. Right now, the Republicans are refusing to sign off on extending tax cuts for the middle class unless the Democrats also extend the cuts for the wealthy. Democrats didn’t have the votes before the election and they sure as heck do not have them now. Tax cuts can not be achieved by unilateral executive order which is now the basis – thanks to the 2010 elections– of democratic power in the legislative process.
If anyone thinks Obama and the Democrats can do this unilaterally they obviously have not been paying attention since Scott Brown won MA senate race. 59 votes is one vote short of the requirement for passage. No piece of legislation like this has been passed in a lame duck session using reconciliation, either, so I’m at a loss about why this is being portrayed as Obama’s fault.
If it’s anyone’s fault, it’s the fault of the GOP for not governing and of the American pubic for voting even one Republican into office in spite of the fact that they never, ever told us one specific regarding their “plan” to reduce spending. But this is all a moot point now. Whether it’s a lame duck session or a regular session, the tax cuts can’t happen without Republican support.
And we can’t get one Republican to hop on board — to take a stand for fiscal conservatism. Republicans have no plan to pay for these tax cuts and they seem unconcerned with the impact on the deficit. That same deficit they just ran on reining in.
This salient fact gets lost in the debate as it’s being framed so successfully by the Right. This isn’t about middle class tax cuts and it’s not about the recession. This is about a party that has jumped the shark of its own ideology long ago and lacks the integrity and the values to right itself. This is about drunken frat boys at the helm of the economy, sliding daddy’s credit card to pay for anything that suits their fancy and never stopping to think about the bill and then smugly turning around and running on being fiscally conservative.
There is no party of fiscal conservatism, save the Democrats who despite of their belief in a social safety net somehow manage to pay for the things they buy, and save enough to leave a surplus. There is no reasonable debate to be offered about extending tax cuts to the wealthy, and the people behind spreading this meme know it. The Republicans are simply catering to those whose now secretive donations got them elected and doing the Razzle Dazzle tap dance of distraction for their rather loud minions. And so a debate was framed where people are actually thinking we need to debate whether tax cuts should or should not be extended for the wealthy in a recession.
The Fiscal Times rather scathingly reported:
“… Bush’s utter lack of principles spelled the death of fiscal responsibility in the Republican Party. Indeed, during the 2000 campaign, Bush and his principal budget adviser, economist John Cogan of Stanford, repeatedly insisted that the budget surpluses of the Clinton years — which had come about because of budget deals in 1990 and 1993 that were opposed by virtually every Republican — were a fiscal danger because Congress might possibly spend them. Better, Republicans said, that they should be completely dissipated through tax cuts as soon as possible.
True to their word, massive tax cuts were enacted in 2001, 2002 and 2003. Although there is little, if any, evidence that they stimulated growth — real gross domestic product, real investment and employment all grew far more slowly than they had following the 1990-91 recession — Republicans and their mouthpieces in the media kept insisting that their policies were working even as the $128 billion surplus Bush inherited in fiscal year 2001 became a $158 billion deficit in 2002, growing to $378 billion in 2003. The key reason for rising deficits was that revenues as a share of GDP fell from 20.6 percent in 2000 to 16.2 percent in 2003 — proof that tax cuts do not pay for themselves despite Republican dogma to the contrary.”
What has happened to this party of Republicans? They don’t have even one reasonable person who is not only capable of doing math but puts his ideology on the line and acts with principle instead of reckless abandon for reality?
It’s not just the tax cuts where the Republicans played a reckless game of chicken with our economy, it’s the tax code. In 2000, the percentage of people who paid no income taxes at all was 23.1 percent. It is now 45 percent. Warren Buffet proved this with his infamous experiment the year he filed his taxes himself, not seeking any shelters or dodges other than following the tax code to the letter. Mr Buffet had asked his office staff to participate as well. Mr Buffet paid 17.7 % in income taxes while his office staff paid an average of 32.9% .
We can only assume that Republicans have given up on being the party of responsibility and fully adopted their branding as reckless, GWB type spenders who can run through a surplus and drive the country into a deeper recession faster than they can scream “Socialism”, and that’s pretty darn fast.
Meanwhile the Democrats are left in the unpopular position of actually governing responsibly and trying to get middle class tax cuts extended during a recession. After all, does it make sense to deprive 98 percent of America of a tax cut to preserve an ideological principle for an additional limited period of time (maybe two years)? These are the compromises that are necessary now that power is shared within our government.
Republicans’ mythic idea that tax cuts grow the economy with no consequences dates back to the Republican patron saint of deficit spending, Ronald Reagan. Most recently, we were treated to Dick Cheney’s la-la-la live for today fiscal policy that has become a tent pole for Republican ideology when he uttered his infamous pronouncement that “Deficits don’t matter.”
A belief he and his party put into action by expanding Medicare to include prescription coverage and putting this vote getter on the national credit card, right along with all of their other spending – like the Iraq War. They behaved and are behaving like spoiled frat boys using daddy’s credit card and not losing a minute of sleep over where the money will come from because every time things get too bad, the Democrats (daddy) come in to clean up after them.
Chalk this up as a success for the Republicans, because instead of focusing on how preposterous and negligent it is for the GOP to continue Bush’s failed policies, or pointing out that they have not received a mandate from the people to inflict their crazy-making ideology onto the country again, we are back to debating the merit of extending tax cuts for the rich, an argument framed around the notion that Democrats and Republicans simply disagree on how to balance the budget. They don’t. Everyone in government knows that you have to pay for your spending and that taxes are the predominant source of revenue for our government.
But now the Democratic base is angry at Obama over this, since not extending the tax cuts for the rich was something he proposed while he was campaigning and now his willingness to negotiate with the Republicans as they hold middle class tax cuts hostage strikes many on the Left as a betrayal. But compromise he will, as practical politics now dictate that in order to get the tax cuts for the middle class, he will most likely have to cooperate with the valueless Republicans who clearly learned nothing from driving this country into the ditch with their ideas just two years ago. Had the 2010 elections gone another way, this wouldn’t even be an issue.
So this spectacular bit of showboating and deflection has worked for the GOP. A pretty tricky bit of business, since there is no merit to the Republicans’ argument and they know it.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.