Friday, January 14, 2011

Getting Those Republican Tax Hikes Back on Track?

The Washington Post brings us an amazing insight into President Obama. You may not have suspected this from his campaign promise not to raise taxes on the middle class, or from his insistence that ten-year tax cut passed under G.W. Bush should not expire for middle class workers, but... believe it or not, he doesn't want to raise taxes on the middle class. Shocking, I know. But in case you haven't grasped the obvious,
Administration officials said no one should be surprised to learn that Obama is unwilling to backtrack on one of the central tenets of his administration - protecting middle-class Americans from higher taxes - particularly after last month's tax battle with Congress.
The reporter switches from telling us what we already know to displays of remarkable credulity,
President Obama's refusal to raise taxes for the vast majority of Americans will prevent him from pursuing a broad overhaul of the tax code and is making it difficult for him to achieve his goals for reducing the budget deficit, according to administration and congressional sources.

* * *

The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because the budget is still being drafted.
So a bunch of anonymous people say that, but for President Obama, the Republican majority in Congress would pass a tax bill that will hike middle class taxes and balance the budget? Really? The Republicans are that beholden to President Obama?

Heck, even if you could get a consensus that it would be economically wise to raise taxes on the middle class at this time... and you won't... and you assume that every member of the Democratic minority were willing to raise taxes on the middle class... which, of course, they're not... how many Republicans would sign onto such a bill? Would I need more than one hand to count them? More than one finger? Perhaps not even that? (I could phrase the rhetorical question differently - if President Obama were to propose that the Republicans join him in raising taxes on the middle class, which finger would they display in response? For some reason I'm not thinking "thumbs up".)

The point of this article, it would appear, is to berate the President for not breaking his campaign promise and strongly advocating middle class tax hikes that he knows have no chance of passing because... um... Oh, here it is: otherwise he's "missing an opportunity to build on the momentum established by his fiscal commission" which... had no momentum. Given that the commission failed to establish enough internal consensus to trigger a Congressional vote, and how balancing the budget is given relatively low priority by voters, its difficult for me to identify the "momentum" or to see where it has been "established". But it's reasonable to conclude that it doesn't even have a fingernail hold in the Republican Party.

If the point of the article is that in order to balance the budget Congress will have to pass tax increases along with any spending cuts, I'm not sure that there's anybody left who isn't aware of that fact. But the President did propose tax increases, at least in the form of letting the Bush tax cut bill expire for high wage earners and allowing that Republican-scheduled tax increase to take partial effect, but remind me again... how much support did that idea get from the Republican Party? Other than weakening himself and his ability to advocate effectively on economic issues, unless the author truly does believe that the only thing that keeps the Republican majority in the House from passing a middle class tax hike is fear of a veto, what does the author imagine that President Obama could accomplish by saying, "Okay, enough about the rich - let's raise taxes on everybody else!"

It's interesting to note that Google News suggests that the original title of the article was "Extension of tax cuts chokes Obama's deficit plans", but that the title was changed to "Tax pledge hinders Obama's plans to overhaul tax code, reduce deficit". Not exactly a subtle change....

Update: Ramesh Ponnuru offers his thoughts on how the Republicans might balance the budget... or, more accurately, not balance it. The column is entitled "How the G.O.P. Can Cut and Survive" but perhaps would be better titled "Why the G.O.P. Should Cut and Run".

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