Am I Completely Missing Something About the Politics of the Bush Tax Cuts?

The following is cross-posted from Open Left here, dated September 14 2010.


As I’ve alluded to before, this whole hullabaloo over the expiring Bush tax cuts seems nonsensical.  If the Bush tax cuts are going to expire for everybody, and everybody’s tax rates are going up, that means a bill to extend the Bush tax cuts – even if it only applies to the non-rich – would itself constitute a tax cut.  And that’s the same bill that Senate Republicans are vowing to block.  So when that cloture vote comes up, and Republicans vote no, what they’re saying is No to tax cuts, or block tax cuts.


Do Republicans expect to be able to vote against tax cuts and still be able to claim the high ground?  Their position is essentially: “Hey middle-class, we’re gonna vote to let your taxes go up because the rich’s taxes are going up too.  We believe that since their taxes are going up, it’s only fair that yours go up too, and we voted to make sure that would happen.”  If this isn’t political suicide for the Republicans, I don’t know what is.


It doesn’t help that the media is constantly obfuscating the issue, though.  AP, via Yahoo, has run a story entitled “Senate Republicans say they’ll block tax increase”.  That’s bullshit – what Senate Republicans are saying is that they’ll block a tax cut, since the bill Democrats are putting on the table would cut taxes, not increase them. (The increase in taxes comes from the 2001/2003 legislation, NOT any legislation that’s being proposed this year.) So what the Senate Republicans want to do is block a block of a tax increase – thus, they’d essentially be voting to raise middle-class taxes.  Can the party that has uniformly touted itself as the party of less taxes, really bring themselves to vote to raise taxes?  Or will they do so and rely on the Democrats’ complete lack of messaging ability to, as usual, save the day for them?


All the media reporting seems to be totally missing this vital point and just trying to write this as if Democrats were pushing through a tax increase as a matter of normal legislation and the noble Republicans were trying to stop it.  The Huffington Post was only slightly better, entitling their article “Senate GOP Committed To Block Tax Increase For The Rich”.  In the headlines of both this and the AP story, it’s always framed as the Republicans wanting to “block a tax increase”, when really what they’re vowing to do is block a tax cut.


And the reporting is framing this as if it was a typical Democrats-want-to-raise-taxes story.  Look at this, from the AP story:


McConnell has said a bill extending the tax cuts for only low- and middle-income earners cannot pass the Senate, but he declined to reiterate that threat on Monday. Republicans control 41 seats, the minimum needed for a successful bill-killing filibuster, though McConnell spokesman Don Stewart declined to say whether all 41 Republicans would support a filibuster.


To amplify his point, McConnell on Monday introduced a bill to extend to Bush tax cuts indefinitely for all income ranges.


Absent from this tough talk is the very legitimate question of whether or not the Senate Republicans will really filibuster an extension of tax cuts for the middle-class.


HuffPo seems to get it:


But a tough political landscape doesn’t necessarily portend a policy compromise. Shortly after McConnell announced that he had the assurances of his Republican colleagues, Reid himself put out a blistering response, hinting that he is willing to call the GOP’s bluff with respect to the tax cuts debate.


“It is unconscionable for Senate Republicans to hold middle-class tax cuts hostage in order to secure more tax giveaways for millionaires and CEOs who ship American jobs overseas,” Reid said. “Today’s declaration by Senate Republicans means they are willing to raise taxes on the middle class and small businesses in the middle of a recession.”


The White House, meanwhile, has stressed repeatedly that they don’t think the president will end up having to veto a negotiated package — expressing confidence that Congress will end up backing an extension for those making less than $250,000 a year and nothing more. Senate aides, likewise, seem to be hankering for the vote even if they lack the confidence that they’ll win it.


“If you move forward with tax cuts for the middle class, you force the GOP into one of two choices,” said one top Senate Democratic aide. “One: agree and support the middle class cuts; or two: stand up for lobbyists and corporate executives as they push to include the higher end tax cuts as well. We win with either option — either the middle class cuts pass or Republicans are isolated and look awful defending tax cuts for the richest of the rich. And, even if they try to tack on a full tax cut amendment, you’ll need 19 Democrats to back it to let it fly.”



The following is cross-posted from Open Left here, dated September 16 2010.


I can’t believe Democrats even have to have this stupid conversation on tax cuts for the rich (0.00 / 0)

Opposing such tax cuts should be a given if you’re a Democrat.  Having to have a discussion among Democrats about why we should raise taxes on the rich is like having to teach a full-grown man to not take a shit in the middle of the living room floor.

Might it be because all the new “Democrats” that were recruited by Rahm Emanuel in 2006 and 2008 were former or closet Republicans who just happened to run as Democrats cuz they didn’t like the Iraq war, or they’re pro-choice, or cuz it was a terrible time to be a Republican?

This is what happens when you let just anybody into the party.  This is also what happens when you refuse to articulate core principles for your party, instead choosing to stand on a precarious stick pile of platitudes, vagueries and negative definitions.

by: liberalmaverick @ Thu Sep 16, 2010 at 04:40

OCTOBER 9 2010 UPDATE: On September 29 2010, this post (or most of it, anyway) was published on Politicish!  The post can be viewed here.

Protect Social Security!

I just signed the Progressive Change Campaign Committee’s letter/petition to oppose cuts to Social Security.


At the bottom they asked “How would cutting Social Security impact you? (Or tell us your thoughts on Social Security being threatened when Dems are in charge.)”  I wrote:


The greatest danger for us as progressives is to be blind to bad policy simply because the people promoting it happen to be Democrats.

Democracy for America Heroes & Villains

What You Need To Know: A Summary For You Lazy Asses

·         Senate Hero: Russ Feingold

·         House Hero: Tom Perriello

·         Senate Villain: Richard Burr

·         House Villain: Mary Bono Mack

Democracy for America is running a contest called “Heroes & Villains”, where you basically choose, for each house of Congress, a progressive “hero” and an anti-progressive “villain”.  The winners for each contest will receive either concentrated support (for the heroes) or concentrated opposition (for the villains).  As the DFA email I received described it for the Heroes:


We’re looking for the best progressive leaders, one each for the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House, to grant the 2010 Progressive  Hero endorsement. The winner earns the full-power of DFA’s grassroots community who will work to deliver volunteers, money, and media to the winner’s campaign.


And for the Villains:


We’ve created a brand new kind of endorsement for the Worst of the Worst — the 2010 Progressive Villain Anti-Endorsement.


The anti-endorsement brings a long-term investment from DFA into the “winners” district — campaign training for activists on the ground, dedicated field staff to support local progressives, resources to increase Democratic voter registration and a commitment to defeat the Villain with a bold progressive Democrat.


It’s a great idea and I eagerly went to the website to see who the nominees were.  To my disappointment, DFA apparently wasn’t too discriminate about choosing the nominees.  The nominees for Heroes were basically every Democratic member of Congress, minus a few of the worst ConservaDems like Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieu, though they did include Tom Carper and Jane Harman, who should not even have been nominated.  The nominees for Villains were basically every Republican member of Congress, and the descriptions for their “offenses” were almost all the same – that they voted against the health care bills in Congress.  Boo hoo – I would have done the same.


Also, for some reason many of the pictures used for the politicians were old.


Anyway, on to the decision-making process.  For all the contests, I went through DFA’s list of nominees and narrowed it down to my own list of nominees, from which I picked my final choice.


Senate Hero


For this one, since there are so few true liberals in the Senate, I could just go through the list and pick them all out.  They were (in order they were listed):


Barbara Boxer

Bernie Sanders

Al Franken

Russ Feingold

Sherrod Brown

Dick Durbin

Tom Harkin

Sheldon Whitehouse

Tom Udall

Roland Burris

Jay Rockefeller

Jack Reed


Of these Senators, the most-deserving on the merits were probably Bernie Sanders and Roland Burris, who actually threatened to filibuster a public option-less health care bill and so extracted some valuable concessions (well, Sanders did anyway; I don’t know if Burris got anything).  But neither of them need the help – Burris is retiring this year (and I’ll actually miss him) and Sanders isn’t up until 2012, and is immensely popular in Vermont anyway.  So I narrowed the list down to those who actually needed the help, i.e. those in tight reelection races this year, and it was a long list of two:


Barbara Boxer

Russ Feingold


Of these two, Boxer is probably slightly more progressive (Feingold sometimes veers right, rhetorically anyway, on budget issues) and is also my own Senator, and I received an email from her campaign urging me to vote for her in this contest.  I would, but while Boxer is locked in a tight reelection race against Carly Fiorina, she’s been holding a slim but stable lead for awhile now, and I’m fairly confident she’ll prevail.  Feingold is probably in greater danger at this point, so I voted for Russ Feingold.


House Hero


I started out trying to weed out the true liberals first, as I did for the Senate Heroes contest, but the House has a lot more true liberals, so I just picked the top ones and then two Representatives who are not super liberal but need help in their campaigns this year.


The cream-of-the-crop liberals were:


Alan Grayson

Nancy Pelosi

Anthony Weiner

Dennis Kucinich

Raúl Grijalva


The two needy Representatives are:


Joe Sestak

Tom Perriello


None of the cream-of-the-crop bunch need help in their reelection bids this year, least of all Nancy Pelosi.  Grayson is in a Republican-leaning district but has a gazillion dollars in his campaign chest already, and is facing a second-tier Republican opponent.


Sestak is actually running for U.S. Senate, and needs a lot of help, but it’s not clear whether DFA would be helping him or the Democrat running to succeed him in PA-7, Bryan Lentz, who could also use the help.  Perriello is not extraordinarily liberal but he has voted the right way most, if not all, the time, despite representing a Republican district.  The most recent polling shows him being crushed by 26 points, and the DCCC is starting to look like they’re writing him off for reelection this year.


So on the one hand, saving Perriello may already be hopeless, but on the other hand, he has taken some very tough votes and is being left behind by the establishment.  I decided that he deserves the help and so I voted for Tom Perriello.


Senate Villain


There’s plenty of villainy to go around, but I focused pretty much on who could actually be taken out.  In some cases I was thinking more of the Democratic/liberal challenger than I was thinking about the actual Villain nominee.


I was going to make sure that the Four Evil ConservaDems who blocked the public option – Ben Nelson, Joe Lieberman, Mary Landrieu, and Blanche Lincoln – were included on my own list of nominees.  To my amazement, only one, Lieberman, was actually a nominee (Lieberman was thus the only non-Republican on this list).  The rest appeared as neither a Hero nor a Villain.  I can understand Lincoln not being included, since the primary against her is already over and lost, but Landrieu and Nelson did more to block the public option than any of the Republicans on this list, so I don’t understand why they were not included.  Some of the other ConservaDems, like Max Baucus, Kent Conrad and Evan Bayh, also appeared on neither the Heroes nor Villains list.  What a huge cop-out.


So my picks were:


Joe Lieberman – up for reelection in 2012

Chuck Grassley – up for reelection in 2010, running against Roxanne Conlin

Richard Burr – up for reelection in 2010, running against Elaine Marshall

Scott Brown – up for reelection in 2012


While I’m really looking forward to replacing Lieberman and Brown with real liberals in 2012, the pressures of the moment pushed me towards this year’s contests with Grassley and Burr.  Between their opponents Conlin and Marshall, I’ve heard more good things about Marshall (and she’s doing better in the polls as well), so I went with Richard Burr.


House Villain


I applied a similar “who can we get rid of and replace with a relative liberal?” test here, but it was harder cuz I don’t follow House races as closely as Senate ones.  In the end I chose four as my starting list:


Dave Reichert – running against Suzan DelBene

Brian Bilbray – running against Francine Busby

Mary Bono Mack – running against Steve Pougnet

Charles Djou – running against Colleen Hanabusa


Of these four, Djou, in heavily Democratic HI-1, will probably lose anyway, without DFA’s help.  I included Reichert because super progressive Darcy Burner had run against him in the past, but she isn’t this year and I don’t know enough about this year’s nominee, Suzan DelBene.  That left Bilbray and Mack, and while Bilbray’s opponent Busby is “okay”, Mack’s opponent Steve Pougnet is probably more progressive, so I voted for Mary Bono Mack.  I admit that there could be better candidates and races out there; I was under pressure to vote before the contest’s September 7 deadline and so had to make my decision in haste.


UPDATE: Hmm, perhaps I shouldn’t have been so confident about Djou losing in HI-1.