Profoundly irresponsible? Of course. Politically insane? Not really. I'll expound on the second point in a moment, but first, let's survey the brazen talk from Team Blue -- with massive, recession-inducing tax hikes hanging in the balance. Our new friend Patty Murray is at the front of the line:
Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) says that if Republicans do not agree to let tax cuts expire for Americans making over $250,000 per year, the country should go over the fiscal cliff, which would allow automatic cuts in spending and the expiration of all tax cuts to go into effect. If this happens, Murray would like to pass a tax cut for those making under $250,000 at the beginning of next year. Sen. Murray says, “I think the Republicans have a decision today. They need to decide whether they’re going to stay and protect the wealthiest Americans from participating in this challenge that we have, and if they do that, then we have no other choice but to go into next year when all the Bush tax cuts expire and start over. I don’t want to do that. I don’t think we should do that, but that’s what they could force us to do.” When CNN Anchor Soledad O’Brien asks if agreeing to go over the fiscal cliff is irresponsible, Sen. Murray responds, “The alternative to that, is if they insist on their position, is even worse. Middle class families… are going to bear the entire burden of our fiscal challenges ... we can’t continue to allow the Republicans to exclude one group of people, those making over $250,000 a year from paying their fair share. That’s what we’re fighting for.”
"The rich" already pay their "fair share," and then some -- but we're past the point of dealing with facts, it seems. And it's not as if Murray's way out on a limb here. The New York Times reports that Democrats are rallying around a fresh consensus that if the GOP holds the line on not raising taxes, it's full speed ahead over the cliff:
Democrats freely admit they have shifted their stance from the defensive crouch of the summer of 2011, when they signed on to a budget deal that cut $1 trillion in spending with no tax increases, to now, when they believe the voters have given them a mandate to raise taxes on the affluent… Both sides insist they want a deal before January, but a rising chorus of voices, especially Democrats, say they would rather go over the cliff than accept a deal that raised too few taxes while extracting too many cuts, especially to Medicare and Medicaid.
The CBO projects that crashing over the fiscal edge would plunge the US economy back into recession and spike unemployment. The prospect of this outcome doesn't seem to bother Democrats in the least. Why? Because they see an electorate that will blame Republicans for a costly impasse, and an opposition party that's cracking. First, the polling. We touched on this yesterday, and Allahpundit amplified the data in a post last night. Here's Gallup, showing a plurality in favor of Obama's unserious "balanced" approach, driven my Democrats and independents:
And what happens if Democrats flush the economy down the toilet in order to punish Republicans for objecting to job-killing tax hikes that will do virtually nothing to reduce the deficit? The country will be very angry...with Republicans:
A certain wave of realism is sweeping through the House Republican ranks: It might be hard to resist a tax rate hike on millionaires. It’s not that they’re about to fully embrace President Barack Obama’s tax hikes, but many Republican lawmakers privately concede that the 2012 election left them with far short of a mandate on taxes, and if urged by Democrats to raise rates on what they dub the mega-wealthy, they will have a tough time resisting.
Before you unload on House Republicans for their fecklessness, a number of GOP governors are making similar noises:
Some Republican governors are softening on the party’s hard-line toward tax increases for the wealthy, suggesting that GOP congressmen at least be open to rate hikes in exchange for a comprehensive fiscal agreement on taxes and entitlements.
Say it with me, gang: "Elections have consequences." I'll leave you with this quote from Mitch McConnell, who puts these crucial, must-have tax increases on the greedy rich in context:
Think about it: the amount of revenue for which they’re prepared to push us over the fiscal cliff wouldn't fund the government for a week. So why in the world would we want to do it? What’s the point? To make people feel good about whacking somebody else? That’s not what we were sent here to do. That’s certainly not what the people of Kentucky sent me here to do. That’s not how you set economic policy — because it makes you feel good. You set economic policy because you think it will lead to investment here in America, create jobs, and give more people an opportunity to lift up themselves up, boosting middle-class incomes now and ensuring security for the future.
Sorry, but feelings are the new facts, Senator.