For the past 3 years – “conservatives” in the House and Senate have shown time and time again that they were willing to put party above country. That has been their war cry for the past several years … that and make Obama a one term president. Many democrats tend to bash President Obama for being too even handed … too willing to compromise … too patient. He had 59 Senators and a dominant House majority but due to so called “moderate” Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins sticking with their party on nearly every single vote … Republicans were able to successfully block or slow bills. The GOP had just enough votes to get their way and block the Democratic agenda despite huge majorities. And despite that obstruction and those political calculations … Democrats were still able to push through the most successful legislative agenda since the LBJ era.
One thing Republicans have said they WILL NOT do however … is raise taxes. Now keep in mind – they’re game when it comes to raising taxes on the poor (SOURCE). You’ll often hear the term “lower the rates, broaden the base”. Well – broaden the base means exactly what you think it does … you need more people to tax so you can tax other people less. That’s the core of the argument although they tend to muddle it when they talk about eliminating tax deductions. At the core argument – they’re saying … lower taxes for the rich aka their donors aka “the job creators” aka “the more productive people in our economy”. And yes – Republicans actually use those terms instead of saying lowering taxes for the wealthy.
“We also know that over 45 percent of the people in this country don’t pay income taxes at all, and we have to question whether that’s fair. And should we broaden the base in a way that we can lower the rates for everybody that pays taxes. [...]“
~Rep. Eric Cantor (VA-R)
You’ll often hear this argument that 45% or 51% or 53% of Americans “don’t pay income taxes AT ALL” and that the fair thing … the just thing is to make sure that every American has some “skin in the game”. But every American does have skin in the game. Every American pays gas taxes, sales taxes, payroll taxes etc. The tax game is like a rigged, corrupt game of poker. The cards are stacked against you and the house is in on the action. When someone like Mitt Romney makes $62 million in two years (being unemployed as he puts it) and pays 13.7% in taxes … that says EVERYTHING you need to know about the way the system works.
The average worker ALREADY pays a 50% higher tax burden more than a person making $200 million a year; don’t believe me – read THIS.
So fast forward here … you have two major pieces of legislation set to take effect on January 1, 2013; many are calling this the “fiscal cliff” and you can read about that HERE.
Last year – Republicans wanted to force major concessions out of President Obama; they said they would not pass an extension of the debt ceiling (what Congress has allowed debt to reach legally). The debt ceiling has never failed to pass and Republicans voted for it’s passage since it’s inception in the early 1900′s. Failure to pass the debt ceiling would have forced the government to decide not to pay medicare, social security or military payments. Failure to do so would harm the AAA credit rating of the American economy; in fact – one of the rating agencies downgraded America’s debt rating to AA due to political obstruction on behalf of the Republican party and said so. Yes – it actually said this.
“We have changed our assumption on this because the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues,” wrote S&P.
And as part of the deal that Republicans and Democrats signed into law – they agreed that there would be automatic cuts to spending if they failed to come to agreement on how to deal with the long term fiscal problems of the country. Republicans have said they WILL NOT raise taxes at all … on anyone (unless they’re poor) and that 100% of the fix should come through spending cuts. Of course – that’s not how you manage a budget.
So – Democrats and Republicans agreed to a sequestration which will kick in on January 1st 2013 that will produce cuts in the military as well as Medicare providers (not beneficiaries) if they were unable to fill the deficit hole by at least $1.2 trillion over 10 years. If there is no agreement – the cuts go into effect. They’re part of law – period. Republicans desperately do not wish to see cuts to the military and they are being lobbied very hard by defense lobbies etc. And those defense contracts means JOBS in many rural areas as well. Defense contracts are often passed because it’s known they’re stimulative programs no different than hiring more teachers, police etc except defense contractors have deep pockets and make it worth their while to vote in favor of more defense spending.
Republicans have tried to avoid these sequestration cuts to the military but Democrats have said that’s the deal we made and we’re sticking with it.
The Bush Tax Cuts
The Bush tax cuts are all set to expire as of January 1, 2013. Republicans do not wish to see these tax cuts expire for the wealthy; Democrats have already tried to pass legislation to extend these tax cuts just for people making less than $250k and also for anyone making less than $1 million a year. In both cases – Republicans obstructed despite a Democratic majority of votes (they didn’t have 60 votes). In December of 2010 – President Obama signed a 2 year extension of the Bush tax cuts to ensure passage of the removal of DADT, passage of an important START treaty with Russia, extension of tax cuts for the middle class and also another one year extension of unemployment benefits for people out of work. that was a very important stimulative compromise. President Obama already compromised once on these tax cuts for the wealthy.
And here we are again – Republicans are saying they will not allow for an extension of tax cuts for everyone unless Democrats are willing to buckle regarding tax cuts for the rich. President Obama has already said that under no circumstances will he compromise again on this issue and obviously – the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy have been in place for 10 years … if they’re so good for jobs – why did Bush hand over an economy that lost 4 million jobs in 2008 and another 2.2 million jobs just in the first three months of President Obama’s term?
So – after years and years of political obstruction by Republicans … all the chips are on the table with this election. If President Obama wins – conservatives will know they lost this argument. There will be a swell of positive support and the first thing President Obama is likely to do is pass tax cuts for the middle class … and he will have the support of public opinion behind him. And he’ll get those votes.
If President Obama loses – it will be more complicated. Democrats have the ability to filibuster in the Senate but they haven’t shown a willingness to engage in political brinkmanship that the Republicans have. But they should. If President Obama loses … Republicans will not engage on raising taxes for the wealthy. But – it’s already in the law. All you need is 40 Democratic Senators to filibuster any bill that tries to extend tax cuts for the wealthy. The only way around that is if Republicans choose to engage in the “constitutional option” and eliminate the filibuster by saying it doesn’t exist (or if they pass a law to fix the filibuster).
Bottom line – unlike for years and years – Democrats do not need any Republican votes to get their way on this issue. If they hold true to what they say they value … then they should block tax cuts for the rich even if it means an increase in tax cuts for the middle class temporarily. It is time for the rich to pay more. Republicans are going to have a very hard time explaining why they’re unwilling to pass a bill for middle class tax cuts unless it includes the rich. Democrats can let the tax cuts expire and put the onus on Republicans.
If Democrats enable or allow the passage of tax cuts for the rich – they will not find a supportive constituency when they come back home. If Democrats can not count on their Democratic leaders to be as gutsy and tough as their Republican counter parts – then they deserve to be in the minority. Democrats should be mean, dirty and gouge some eyes … punch some teeth out; they should be just like the Republican party has been over the past three years.
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