Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

GOP starts using the 2011 bully pulpit — minus the pulpit — to get Bush tax cuts

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Not to focus too much more on the calendar theme from last week, but we got a dose of 2011 even if haven’t hit New Year’s Eve.

I did theorize that Republicans would somehow come up with ways to get unemployment benefits, but they wouldn’t do it voluntarily. Well, we have had our proof even before the GOP takes control of the House in January.

The Republicans, who have preached that deficits are too high, want the Bush tax cuts to remain no matter how much a person makes. Like you thought that the GOP would roll over when the time came to renew them?

We’ve seen this mentality in government lately: doing something for a long time but pointing out that there is an expiration date, so it’s not “permanent.”As Prince once sang about life, “It means forever and that’s a mighty long time.”

Those in Chicago are suffering through this as their parking meters haven’t been “sold” — they are leased for 75 years. If you live in the city, and even if you are young, and live a long life — you know in your world that 75 years is forever. And so will the city’s coffers for generations to come. The Chicago Skyway, a toll road leading out of Chicago to Indiana and Michigan, was leased for 99 years, an even-longer forever.

So 10 years later, the tax cuts are set to expire. They have been a disaster in terms of the deficit (and therefore debt), and the majority of the benefit goes to those in the high percentile in this country.

If you estimate the American population at 300 million (a low estimate), 18 million make at least $100,000 as of 2008. The numbers for $250,000 or more is considerable less than that, but the richest of the rich can afford to pay taxes at the same level that would have under President Bill Clinton.

Now if we take that 300 million figure and note that the unofficial unemployment figures are about 20%, this means that 60 million fall in that category.

(We should note for the math experts that we are not factoring in families into the equation on either side; after all, rich people who make $400,000 a year probably have a spouse and children. Of course, poor people and previous not-poor people have spouses and children, too. )

But in our rough math sense, we have 60 million who are personally affected by the unemployment saga. This doesn’t count the underemployed, and those businesses (and their employees) affected because don’t have enough money to spend.

Even with our rough math numbers, 60 million is still more than 18 million. But the GOP’s fight for less than 18 million has been tougher than the Dems’ fight for the 60 million.

You could argue that the Dems could have the GOP hold the paper bag on this issue: blame them if the GOP doesn’t extend unemployment benefits. Force them to do the right thing. But Dems don’t have that kind of fight in them, because they know that the unemployment benefits aren’t something to gamble.

Nothing illustrates the GOP’s confidence on this issue more than this paragraph from The New York Times:

Rather than extending the tax rates only on income described by Democrats as middle class — up to $250,000 a year for couples and $200,000 for individuals — the deal would also keep the rates for higher earners, probably for two years. In return, Republicans said they would probably agree to extend jobless aid for the long-term unemployed.

The key word in the last sentence is “probably.” “Give me your lunch money and I probably won’t beat you up.” Even the victim of a school bully wouldn’t fall for that lack of logic — the kid on the playground would want a guarantee.

And what’s worse is that the GOP wants everyone to keep the Bush tax cuts for as long as possible, will get that, and then will want something else when the unemployment benefits come up again.

Dealing with a bully isn’t easy whether you are in the playground or the Capitol building, but the Democratic Party leadership hasn’t been good at fighting under normal circumstances.

The alternative strategy is to hold the Bush tax cuts hostage and let them expire for everyone. Then in 2011, the GOP would have to propose a tax cut for millionaires in the worst economic times in our lifetime with a Democratic-controlled Senate and a Democratic president. Show a backbone.

But we know that won’t happen.

The teabaggers — fearful of the deficit — aren’t concerned that the GOP, their party, wants to raise the deficit with the Bush tax cuts. When the GOP has to raise the debt ceiling, the teabaggers aren’t going to complain. Because the Republicans are in line with what the teabaggers believe, not what they say.

Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi will still get blamed, regardless of the reality. The irony is that the teabaggers, if they were consistent, could stand up against the Bush tax cuts. Then the Dems could use leverage to get the unemployment benefits without significant damage to the deficit by people who can afford to take a hit.

Can’t wait until 2011? Looks like you won’t have to wait.


Written by democracysoup

December 10, 2010 at 7:35 am

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