Bill Kristol, for once, is right. The Bush tax cuts for the rich have to go.
The election is barely over, but true to form, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner have already bungled the next one. Their line in the sand is exactly the wrong way to recast the GOP’s appeal to minorities, women, and working-class whites.
Look at the data. Exit polls showed that voters largely agreed that Romney was a “strong leader” and “had a vision for the future.” But as AEI’s Henry Olsen notes, “Romney lost because he lost among those who chose the remaining characteristic – by 63 points, 81-18. That characteristic? Cares about people like me.” (The exit polls do not include the nine million white voters who showed their opinion by not voting at all.)
Having lost two national elections in which the Bush tax cuts were at issue, the GOP Congressional leadership now seems determined to dig the ditch deeper.
C.S. Lewis begins his classic Mere Christianity by listing phrases we’ve all heard or said: “How’d you like it if someone did the same to you” – “That’s my seat, I was here first” – “Leave him alone, he isn’t doing you any harm” – “Why should you shove in first.” He notes that a child’s first introduction to immorality is when someone cuts in front of him in the school lunch line. The response is instinctual: “That’s not fair.” All moral codes, Lewis says, begin with that one reaction: “That’s not fair.”
The Republican Party can appeal to “Judeo-Christian values” as long as the sun shines and their voices hold out. But they’ve abandoned the most basic moral value of all: fairness. America is supposed to be the land of opportunity. But tell that to minorities, to single women, to working-class whites. Even 44 percent of voters who earn over $200,000 a year voted for Obama, the candidate who promised to raise their taxes.
We all know that eliminating the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy will not make much of a difference in the deficit ($42 billion a year, by most estimates). But anybody who preaches on that point will find himself talking to an empty auditorium. And if raising taxes on the rich is redistributionist socialism, someone should should have told Eisenhower, Nixon, and Reagan, whose rates on the rich were 91, 70, and 50 percent.
A capital gains tax rate (making money off money) that is lower than the earned income rate (making money off work) is just not fair. Bestowing that rate on hedge-fund managers through a specially designed loophole is just not fair. Allowing the rich to take mortgage deductions for second and third homes, or for homes worth over $1 million, is just not fair. Allowing business owners like me to take myriad deductions that our employees cannot take is just not fair. But, most of all, allowing the wealthy to pay very low tax rates while interest on the war debt accumulates, deficits continue, and middle-class incomes deteriorate is just not fair.
Perhaps McConnell and Boehner have taken their stand on principle. Or perhaps they are still scared of Grover Norquist. Perhaps they truly believe – in contrast to three decades worth of evidence and a recent study by their own Congressional Budget Office – that lower tax rates on the rich actually produce jobs. Or perhaps they’re just waiting for the kind of face-saving compromise Galupo has suggested (and the president is now unlikely to approve). Or perhaps they’re just not very bright.
The reasons don’t really matter. The results are what matter. And they got the results on November 6.
The GOP can recruit candidates with Hispanic surnames, tone down its platform, prep its members on talking points, and try to duplicate the Obama turnout machine. But if it remains the party of entrenched unfairness, it will never win another national election.