GOP will wait for Dems to buckle on tax cuts
“Wait for it! Wait for it! Wait for it!”
That’s the famous line comedian Katt Williams uses in his stand-up act as a signal to his audience that the punch line to one of his jokes is coming.
That also could be the motto for Republicans these days when it comes to the Democrats eventually caving on the Bush tax cuts. For all of the bravado during the midterm elections coming from President Barack Obama, Sen. Harry Reid and countless other Democrats about not extending the cuts for millionaires and billionaires, it is becoming abundantly clear that Dems don’t have the intestinal fortitude to face down the GOP on this issue.
For several months, President Obama has said that he is willing to extend the Bush tax cuts for Americans making less than $250,000, which, over time, would have a $3 trillion effect on the U.S. deficit. Yet he has said that the nation’s richest Americans — those making more than $250,000 — don’t need the tax break and that the U.S. doesn’t need the additional $700 billion impact on the deficit.
The argument seems pretty simple, and the polling data back up the president. Poll after poll shows that most folks support extending the Bush tax cuts on the middle class but not on the top 2 percent of wage earners in America.
But the position of the Republicans is simple: We will acquiesce on tax cuts, but if all don’t get them, none will get them. That’s why the incoming speaker of the House, Ohio Republican John Boehner, labeled as “chicken crap” the bill that passed the House for extending the cuts for those making less than $250,000. In fact, congressional Republicans released a letter this week saying they will block any legislation Democrats offer up before dealing with the Bush tax cuts.
They have drawn a clear line in the sand and don’t care one bit about bipartisanship while demanding that President Obama compromise his position to come to their side of the room.
The calculus by the Obama administration is clear: If we can negotiate a deal that temporarily extends the cuts for all and we can get unemployment benefits extended, then that’s a win-win for the economy and all will be well.
But it won’t. Republicans will portray the move as forcing the president’s hand and making him bow down to their wishes, while the left will see this as the latest example of a party and a White House bending over backward to do what they say is right for America while the opposition makes clear that it wants to do what is right for its political base.
Frankly, the Republicans are going to play chicken with the Democrats and force them to blink, because they know Dems and President Obama don’t have the stomach to fight. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says his No. 1 goal is to make President Obama a one-termer, and the White House responds with smiles and “can-we-all-get-along” happy talk.
Whether you agree with them or not, Republicans always have been willing to use fear to their advantage, even if that means a burn-the-boats mentality. Like it or not, they are tougher than Democrats, and even the Democrats know it. While the Dems have to deal with a caucus mixed with Blue Dogs, doves, African-Americans, Hispanics and gays, the Republicans have mostly hard-chargin’ white conservatives who are in lock step with one another. The message: We ride and die together. The Dems’ message? Feel free to jump off if the road gets a little bumpy and your stomach goes squeamish.
If President Obama really believes that extending the Bush tax cuts for the richest of the rich would be bad, he should draw a line in the sand: It’s either a cut for those making less than $250,000 or else. Is it risky? Absolutely. Is the White House concerned that there could be a backlash if the GOP doesn’t blink and the Senate refuses to take up the House legislation? Of course it is.
But if your opposition always thinks you’re going to back down eventually, it’ll just wait you out until you give out. For the GOP, Dec. 31 is the drop-dead date for the cuts to expire. Republicans are going to hold out for all the cuts because they know the Dems will cave. The Democratic Party isn’t willing to flood the zone and truly paint the Republicans as standing in the way of giving the middle class a tax break. Democrats aren’t willing to go to the mats and fight for what is a so-called conviction.
Malcolm X once said the most dangerous man is one who isn’t afraid to die. Let me say now that the most susceptible man (or woman) is one who talks big but shrivels into a fetal position when push comes to shove. Democrats may be showing us they are unwilling to back up their talk with action.
And the Republicans are counting on that.
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