He and his fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill are trying to find a way to avoid the “fiscal cliff” without raising taxes. Unfortunately, their counterparts — President Obama and the Democrats — seem to using the negotiations not so much as a way to avoid the cliff, but as a pretense for trying to bully Republican lawmakers into alienating their base by raising taxes.
Obama, who talked about the need for a “balanced” approach during the campaign, now has shifted back to his “raise taxes first” mode. The latest proposal from the White House encompasses $1.6 million in higher taxes and a new $50 billion “stimulus” program. Five major tax hikes slated to start Jan. 1 on things like flexible savings accounts and medical devices would become permanent. Obama has taken Social Security reforms off the table and offered little detail on how he would cut Medicare or other entitlement programs. And of course, the centerpiece of his strategy continues to be a class warfare demand that Republicans agree to higher taxes on “the wealthy,” who he defines as those earning more than $250,000 a year.
“Soak the rich” slogans are a poor substitute for competent governance. Even if the government was to confiscate everything that wealthy Americans own (as opposed to merely raising their taxes), it would only cover the cost of running the government for a few days.
House GOP leaders responded this week with a debt-reduction plan that would boost tax collections by $800 billion over the next decade by overhauling the tax code to reduce deductions, but without raising tax rates on anyone. They also would trim federal health programs by $600 billion, in part by increasing the Medicare eligibility age to 67 from 65; and would employ a less generous indexing proposal for entitlement benefits.
Obama is insisting that because he won the election, that the Republicans must cave on their core issue and raise taxes. In short, he’s trying to rub Republicans’ noses in it. As in past Democrat-driven budget deals, he’s pushing for higher taxes now, with the promise of spending cuts down the road. The current stand-off is not about money. It’s about politics, and about Obama’s all-out effort to neuter the Republican Party.
If it gives in to Obama’s bullying it would severely alienate its base, gain next to nothing in return and be tarred with a reputation for being easily pushed around. That’s a win-win strategy for liberals, but not conservatives.
As Sen. Chambliss put it in a guest column he authored on Sunday’s Marietta Daily Journal oped page, “Until we cut spending, control entitlements and enact meaningful tax reform our country will continue to morph into a European-type economy and our freedoms will continue to erode. …The answer is not to raise taxes and keep spending like there is no tomorrow.”
Obama has given every indication he intends to keep raising taxes and increasing spending. If we go “over the cliff,” it will be because he pushed us.