Don’t let anyone kid you; there is no winning hand on the fiscal cliff mess. The whole thing is a disaster, largely of the GOP’s own making and the only question is how badly we’re going to lose.
If I were a Republican in the House, I would have voted for Plan B last night. Although I do believe well intentioned conservatives can disagree with that position, I haven’t seen any of them that have offered up a better idea — and that includes groups that I have a great deal of respect for, like Freedomworks and the Club for Growth. Saying “Don’t give any ground on anything ever for any reason” sounds nice, but it’s just as much of a losing formula as the spineless, give-in-to-the-Democrats-all-the-time formula pushed by people like Joe Scarborough and David Brooks.
Moreover, it ignores the sad reality of how we got into this situation.
1) Maybe temporary tax cuts were the best that George W. Bush could do, but it also meant they weren’t a sure thing over the long haul. Now, unless a deal is passed, all the Bush tax cuts are automatically repealed.
2) We’ve lost the public relations battle when it comes to raising taxes on the rich. Part of that is our own fault as well. We’ve talked incessantly about the importance of reducing the deficit. The Democrats responded by saying, “We agree, which is why we want to raise taxes on the rich and use it to pay down the deficit.” Obama talked about this issue a great deal during the election and, yes, he won partially because of this issue. It’s time to give enough ground on this issue to take it off the table — which Plan B may have been able to do.
3) Additionally, part of the reason Obama won is because of the Republican Party’s horrible messaging on tax increases for the wealthy. Not only did the Democrats manage to falsely (but also successfully) portray our nominee as another Thurston Howell the Third, they were able to frame the GOP as the party of the rich. Instead of being the party that opposes higher taxes on everybody, Obama managed to convince the American people that we’re the party that’s all about making sure the guys with Limos don’t pay a dime more in taxes. This has led to the utterly bizarre situation we are left with today, where Barack Obama is getting away with telling the country that the Republican Party wants to raise taxes on the middle class to help the rich.
4) The public blames the GOP, not Obama, for the fiscal cliff stand-off. Given that it’s even being publicly reported that Boehner has offered many concessions while Obama has offered none, this is insane. However, Obama has a gift for shifting the blame, the press helps him and the Republican Party is terrible at messaging. So if we go over the fiscal cliff, the GOP will get most of the blame — and let’s face it, Obama doesn’t care. He figures he can shift the blame for anything bad that happens to the Republican Party and although his luck can’t hold out forever, he has four years of experience that shows the strategy works. From his perspective, why not go over the cliff and use the stock market plunge, economic fear and complaints to get the GOP to give up the farm for anything that’ll help them save face?
5) John Boehner and Mitch McConnell have been running the show for the GOP in the House and Senate since 2006. Boehner has been a solid “C” leader while McConnell has been a “D” at best. Both of them are unpopular, have been consistently outmaneuvered by the Democrats and neither of them have any long term potential as leaders. Despite all of that and the GOP’s consistent failure with those two at the helm (3 out of the last 4 cycles have been mediocre or worse for the GOP), they’re both still in charge. Things are worse in the Senate where John Cornyn’s mediocre performance at the NRSC was rewarded with a leadership position, but we’re now in a position where their caucuses, the grassroots and the public all lack confidence in the men in charge. So, when Boehner shows up touting something like “Plan B,” which was probably the best outcome we reasonably could hope to get given the situation, nobody really bought into it because no one is buying into him as a leader.
So, what’s next? It’s hard to say for sure because Obama has more leverage, the GOP will be blamed by the public, and the deals are likely to only get worse from here on out. From my perspective, we’d have been much better off putting the ball in Obama’s court by passing Plan B and making him either support it or explain to the public why he wants a much bigger tax increase.
Taxes are set to go up by $4.6 trillion on January 1st. That is the law of the land. Yesterday, the official tax scorekeeper of Congress, the Joint Committee on Taxation, released their analysis of Speaker John Boehner’s, R-Ohio, Plan B. According to the JTC, Plan B would cut taxes by $4.1 trillion over ten years.
Instead, we’ve helped cement in the poor impressions of the Republican Party, the pressure on Obama has been reduced and chances are we’re going to go over the cliff. If we do, the GOP will be pummeled by the media and their constituents and we’ll probably end up signing on to a much worse deal to make it all go away. The only possible plus of all that would be that it might lead to Boehner losing his job, which would be one of many needed steps in the right direction for the Party.