Saturday, September 18, 2010

Hostages

Okay, so there's been a lot of politicking around the impending expiration of the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003. You know, back when Bush told us to go out and spend money or the terrorists win. Those tax cuts were enacted on the assumption that they'd expire. At the end of this year.

Democrats are arguing that we ought to extend the cuts for people making less than a quarter of a million dollars a year and let them expire for those above that line. Despite the fact that Republicans have been howling about the deficit since about ten seconds after Obama took the oath of office, they nonetheless maintain that we shouldn't raise taxes on anybody at all.

Now the Republicans are threatening to let taxes go up for everyone if the Democrats insist on keeping them low for anyone, holding a middle class tax cut hostage to the interests of the wealthy. And it's a threat I really can't see them carrying out any time soon.

Think about it. Republicans are going to force a tax increase on the middle class to let the Democrats increase taxes on the rich? Great! It's an untenably anti-populist position for the Republicans at a time when their party is being overrun with populist sentiment. If they have a chance to keep the Bush tax cuts from expiring for the middle class and they don't because they are beholden to their big business donors, they'll get eaten alive.

If the Democrats talk it up in the next few weeks and the Republicans form ranks to oppose it, I think the Republicans will get hurt in the November midterms. With the Tea Party biting at their heels, there's no way the Republicans can just dig in and say, "tax hikes for none, or tax hikes for all." (And you can bet the family farm that Republicans are going to frame it as a new tax hike rather than the end of a tax cut.)

But if Democrats don't press the issue until after the midterms are over, then the Republicans have a much better chance of opposing it with no significant consequences in the Presidential race in 2012 because that's a long ways off and people forget.

Remember Democrats trying desperately in 2008 to remind everyone about the Republicans' plan to privatize social security? Remember them pointing out over and over again that the financial crash would then have destroyed the entire social security system? Yeah, me either, because they know that political memory fades fast. If Democrats want to make their plan work, they'd better do it soon.

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