A nice catch by Heritage Action helps frame the current tax fight nicely. In Scranton, Pennsylvania yesterday, the president told a crowd of supporters that the recession isn't over. Economists will say that several consecutive quarters of anemic growth technically proves the opposite, but Obama's general assessment is an accurate reflection of how the American people feel: The recession persists.
Flashback to 2009, when the president offered this pearl of economic wisdom (really!):
So two years ago, President Obama correctly stated that it's bad economics to raise anyone's taxes in the midst of a recession. Yesterday, he admitted that for all intents and purposes, the great recession isn't over. Yet he and his party have made job-killing tax increases the untouchable, non-negotiable central tenet of their entire agenda in recent months. Want to cut spending? Raise taxes. Want to reduce the deficit? Raise taxes. Want to extend a payroll tax holiday? Raise other people's taxes to "pay for" it. Want to create jobs? Spend more federal money, funded by tax hikes. You get the idea. It's terrible economics, but that's not the point. The goal is political, and twofold:
(1) Paint Republicans as slavish defenders of the uber-wealthy "one percenters," thus fueling the poisonous class envy that undergirds all Leftist thinking. (2) Erect roadblocks to bipartisan achievements prior to the 2012 election. Obama's only shot is demonizing the GOP as do-nothing, unAmerican obstructionists, and actual Congressional accomplishments would undermine that narrative -- so Democrats have dug in on an issue about which they know Republicans won't and can't waver. (See Karl Rove's column on why the "do-nothing" label just doesn't apply to House Republicans). Even when some Republicans offer major concessions on raising revenues, Democrats move the goalposts beyond any plausible Republican rubicon, ensuring gridlock.
Congressional Democrats' latest gambit is to resist any Republican effort to extend the current payroll tax reduction (an Obama priority) without raising taxes on "the rich." Even though this particular form of temporary tax relief hasn't helped jump-start the economy, the GOP realizes that opposing its extension outright is electoral suicide. Democrats could then claim the GOP is fighting to reduce taxes on the wealthy, while green-lighting an increased tax burden for millions of middle- and working-class Americans. Therefore Republican leaders have advanced alternatives that offer "pay-fors" that protect both the survival of the tax break, and the goal of not raising taxes on anyone -- an outcome that President Obama should embrace, based on his 2009 standard and frank admission in Scranton. Are Democrats willing to play ball? Of course not. They're sticking to their tax hike scheme, which has been roundly denounced by
the evil rich job creators.
Parting thought: Do Democrats even really want to see taxes raised on the wealthy at the moment, or would they prefer to just wield the class warfare hatchet from now until next November? Remember, they controlled the House, the White House, and had a huge majority in the Senate for two full years prior to 2011. If the biggest obstacle to job growth and deficit reduction was "millionaires and billionaires" refusing to pay their "fair share" of taxes, why didn't they act to rectify that situation when they had the chance?
UPDATE - It appears the "compromise for compromise's sake" bug is beginning to bite some Republican Senators. Terrific:
Another Republican senator has opened the door to tax increases on high earners as a way to pay for a payroll tax cut, showing more movement in the party ranks after resistance all year to tax increases. “I sense a change in mood,” Senator Mike Johanns, Republican of Nebraska, said Wednesday. “It’s a little more bipartisan. My position has always been, ‘Let’s not raise taxes,’ but on the other hand, I don’t want our country to collapses under a mountain of debt. If that means compromise, I am going to do everything to get that done.” Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, said Tuesday that she had formulated a plan to pay for the extension of a payroll tax holiday for American workers with a tax increase on high earners that carved out employers, so they would not be hit with higher rates.