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.

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