Tax Cut Kabuki for Dummies
President Obama’s re-election has released a veritable tsunami of conservative animus directed both outside and inside the GOP. Every post-election day that goes by spawns ever more colorful responses to the “shock and awe” dealt to unsuspecting Republicans of every stripe. Today, for instance, we have the highly amusing spectacle of the circular firing squad setting their sights on the “conservative media” for leading us all down the garden path about Romney’s real prospects.
I can’t figure out which “conservative media” they’re going on about, though, because David Frum, Jonathan Martin of Politico and, now, Joe Scarborough of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” evidently believe that they are not members of that particular club. Frum pouted that, “Republicans have been fleeced and exploited and lied to by a conservative entertainment complex.” Politico’s lead story today exposes the GOP’s “media cocoon,” which prevented it from seeing a true picture of the election. And Scarborough commiserated with the donors who poured hundreds of millions of dollars into conservative Super PACs, saying they should be mad that they were “lied to” by conservative media, and yet he attacked Nate Silver, calling him an “ideologue” for predicting anything but a tossup in the election? I wonder how he would have reacted if some conservative pollster had said “You know this isn’t looking too good for Mitt”?
Hilarious. I’ll bet Rush Limbaugh is simply quivering in his Gucci loafers at the prospect of his excommunication from the “new” conservative movement all infused with truthiness. Wasn’t it just a few short weeks ago that Paul Ryan earned the title of Prevaricator-in-Chief and was carried around the Republican Convention on the shoulders of adoring fans for setting a new land speed record for zero to sixty lies in 20 minutes?
Whatever. That’s all pretty funny in a typically over-the-top Republican way . . . what I’m finding even more entertaining is the posturing of John Boehner who, apparently. believes he actually has a hand to play on the Bush Tax Cuts expiration. Perversely enough, there even seem to be a few Democrats who are playing along. Now I understand that this election has been particularly discombobulating and we’ll just have to put up, for a while, with silliness like Grover Norquist’s revelation that Obama won the election by calling Mitt Romney a “poopy head.”
Nevertheless, get serious people! those Bush Tax Cuts are not even in play. Furthermore, Republicans, that’s your fault. Back when you wanted to ramrod those babies through, you structured the deal so that they would expire in ten years. You had to do that because that was the only way that you could make them appear to cost less than they did. Had they been less “ambitious” (i.e., showboat-y) you might have gotten them passed as smaller, permanent tax cuts and you’d still have Obama where you want him. Obama would now be in a position, even having won the election, that required him to come hat-in-hand to beg the House to raise taxes on the wealthy. Alas, that wasn’t how you played it, so now it’s time to suck it up because you’re about to learn a valuable lesson about being “hoist by your own petard.”
Back in 2010, fresh off a Republican takeover of the House majority, President Obama agreed to extend the Bush Tax Cuts for two years until after the 2012 election. Coming off the spanking of the 2010 mid-term elections, a lot of Democrats were angry and dispirited over that capitulation but it was smart and, actually the best thing for the economy that was, otherwise, about to be tamped down whenever possible by an obstructive House bent on making Obama a one-term wonder. Even then, though, anyone who could think two moves ahead could see where Obama was going with that extension to preserve the status quo until the 2012 election, all that remained was to be re-elected and cash in his tax-cut-expiration chips. Boehner and company don’t have enough leverage to prevent the Bush Tax Cuts from expiring.
As the President pointed out, post-election, the Senate has already passed a measure to extend the tax cuts for the middle class only. Republicans are in a “pay me now, or pay me later” situation insofar as they can pass that plan now, or after the tax cuts expire in January. Despite the fact that word has come down from Mount Norquist that any vote for a tax plan that extends only the middle class tax cuts and allows the upper rates to expire is tantamount to “raising taxes,” that’s the very sort of silliness that doesn’t appear to work any longer. Not to mention that the GOP doesn’t have a whole lot of political capital to squander, right now.
All that the administration needs to do is allow the Bush Tax Cuts to expire (without panicking), then immediately revive the Senate bill and—win/win. Republicans get to say that they passed a big tax cut package and the President gets his revenue-from-the-rich.
The only way that Republicans could conceivably screw this up is to stand on principle, turn their platform on its head and vote against a massive middle class tax cut to preserve low tax rates for the wealthy who frankly, aren’t all that incensed about the notion of their tax rate rising—especially the ones who aren’t Republicans to begin with (and, believe it or not, there actually are a good many of those.)