Et tu, Jim DeMint?
Most of us here are not in the loop of what they’re discussing, but I do know this: This government doesn’t need more money — this country needs less government. To take more money out of the real economy and give it to politicians and bureaucrats, no matter who you take it from, is not going to help the middle class or anyone else. The president’s proposal clearly is not a plan, it’s not a solution, it’ll fund the government for a few days. We all realize it’s a political trophy, not a solution. The president’s been campaigning against these tax rates for a long time, and he’ll probably eventually get his tax increases one way or another. … He’s going to get his wish. We’re going to be raising taxes, not just on the top earners. Everyone’s going to pay more taxes next year in this country and I think that’s what the president wants. But, we’ve doubled the size of government and doubled spending over the last ten years. … Tax revenues at current tax rates will probably be at historic highs, and if you look at the facts, we don’t need more revenue, we just need to stop the spending. The president is not going to stop spending… It’s hard to work with someone who I think is intentionally trying to take us over this cliff.
If you parse this statement, it becomes clear that it's not quite the capitulation my headline may imply; it's an assessment of fact. Republicans are probably going to sign on to some deal that raises revenues. Or they might allow Democrats to be the only ones holding the tax hike bag when the music stops. Or we might all go over the fiscal cliff. In any of those scenarios, tax increases occur. Hardcore liberals are rooting for door number three because they realize that imposing massive tax cuts on everybody is the only way to even partially keep up with the statist dream of ever higher spending and oodles of magical promises. That's why they're pressuring the White House to reject any entitlement changes at all. All told, Boehner's press conference today probably didn't advance the ball too much, but he's smart to keep trying to pull the public discussion back to spending. The media and Democrats have been endlessly harping on the revenue side of this equation, but as we've established many times over, revenue is not the problem. The president blows a lot of smoke about striking a "balanced approach" to deficit reduction -- which sounds appealing to the average voter -- but he's demonstrated zero appetite for actually reducing the deficit. Take his initial fiscal cliff offer, for instance. It proposed a 4-to-1 tax increase to spending cut ratio, and then called for new spending on a second stimulus. Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee point out that the overwhelming majority of Obama's tax hikes on "the rich" and small businesses would be used to finance more spending, not to pay down the deficit:
Obama's round two offer was "only" $1.4 trillion in tax increases. I wonder which piece of this pie would absorb that hit. Even though Republicans have drawn the short end of the public opinion stick for months over these negotiations, might they be slowly turning the tide? The populace seems to support upper-income tax increases, but they're even more in favor of spending cuts. They also want to see a compromise worked out. Republicans may not be able to prevent the tax increases from happening (see: Jim DeMint, above), but they might be having some success at shining the light on Democrats' absolute refusal to offer realistic, detailed counterproposals. A new NBC/WSJ poll shows a majority of voters would now blame both sides if talks collapse and America goes cliff diving. Believe it or not, this is a significant and positive shift for the GOP:
A new poll finds that a majority of voters would blame both President Obama and congressional Republicans equally if efforts to find a deficit deal to avoid the “fiscal cliff” fail. Fifty-six percent surveyed in a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll say both sides would be responsible if a compromise is not reached. Nineteen percent would blame Obama and Democrats only, with 24 percent saying the GOP would be at fault. Those numbers could suggest a shift in public opinion as both parties work to find a way to prevent tax rate hikes and automatic spending cuts from taking effect in January. Prior surveys have shown voters more likely to blame congressional Republicans if talks fail. A Washington Post/Pew Research survey released last week found 53 percent would blame Republicans, with 27 faulting the president. Twelve percent in that poll said blame should be equally apportioned. And a CNN/ORC poll last month found 45 percent saying Republicans would be responsible if there was no accord, with 34 tabbing Obama.
Among those who would assign full blame to one side or the other, Republicans remain at a slight disadvantage -- but a substantial majority now believes the fault crosses party lines. If this trend continues, the GOP will wield a bit more leverage at the negotiating table. The more I think about this, the more I like the "two bill" solution, with the permutation of making the middle class tax rates permanent. Let liberals fight each other over the permanency question, let Democrats be solely responsible for the tax increases, and when their alleged solution ("fair shares" and "the rich") does little to foster growth or reduce the deficit, Republicans will have increased standing to make big push on spending -- where they already command strong public support.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography