Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Republican Platform

After the goings-on in Congress the last several weeks, it is hard to see how Republicans have any remaining credibility on their core promises of cutting taxes, reducing the deficit, or creating jobs. By refusing to continue the payroll tax cut enacted last year, Republicans proved that the only tax cuts they care about are for those in the top brackets or for corporations or for capital gains. Last year they filibustered the Democrats' attempt to extend the Bush tax cuts for the middle class only, insisting that all the Bush tax cuts must be extended, even for individuals earning in excess of $250,000.  They did not demand that any of the Bush tax cuts be paid for, not when they were enacted almost ten years ago, and not since then. This year, however, they have demanded that payroll tax cuts, which of course mainly benefit only those making about $100,00 annually or less, must be offset by spending cuts. Thus they have made a mockery of their claim that cutting taxes pays for itself. They have also revealed that their interest in cutting taxes does not reach very far down the income scale.

If cutting taxes for most Americans is not a priority, that must be because reducing the deficit is a higher priority, right? Wrong. On the deficit, Republicans on the super-committee torpedoed any potential deal by insisting that revenue increases could not be part of any compromise. Congressional Republicans are also looking for ways to avoid the automatic cuts in defense spending that they agreed to as part of this past summer's agreement to raise the debt ceiling. That means cutting the deficit is not the top priority. And cutting government spending is not the top priority either, if that includes defense spending.

If cutting taxes, and cutting the deficit, and cutting government spending are not priorities, that must be because stimulating the economy is the priority, right? Once again, wrong. Republicans in Congress have done absolutely nothing to increase employment. In fact, what they advocate most vociferously is firing more public employees. The main thing that has been depressing job creation figures, month after month, has been reductions in public sector employment, mostly at the state and local level. It is impossible to reduce unemployment while you are busy firing as many public sector employees as you possibly can. It is like pouring water back into a boat while somebody else is bailing it out. The private sector cannot even absorb the existing unemployed fast enough, and obviously cannot absorb the additional teachers, construction workers, and many thousands of other employees being laid off as a result of government spending cutbacks.

So what are the real Republican priorities? Helping the wealthy keep more of their money, obviously. They cop to that. Shrinking social programs such as Medicare. The Ryan budget plan they all voted for does that. And perhaps, as about half the population now believes, trying to stall the economic recovery so they can benefit in the next election. So let's have some honesty in next year's election campaigns. Republicans might as well give up the pretense that they are most interested in cutting taxes, reducing the deficit and improving the economy. The public now understands that Republicans are in fact running on a platform of helping the rich get richer, cutting benefits for the poor and middle class, and refusing to cooperate in any way with the other party so that they can blame the Democrats for anything that goes wrong. Being forced to run on ideas like that, it's no wonder the Republican presidential field is in disarray.

11 comments:

  1. How much of the tax burden do you think is fair for the successful in America? The so called wealthy pays upwards of 90%-plus of all the taxes in America now and half the people don't pay any at all. We don't have a tax problem we have a spending problem. You could take by force all and I mean all the wealth of the evil rich and we could not run the government for three weeks at the present rate of spending, so it's just some more chum in the water to gin up the base. You want to make this nation successful again... cut the spending, leave the successful to do what they do, create wealth for all of us. Blame the GOP all you want, give this spendaholic president a pass but if we can't pay for it then it's borrowed from the Chinese at a rate of $2 billion in interest a day. You call that hope and change? I call it irresponsible and poor leadership.

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  2. Thanks for dropping by, American Horse. Where did you find that statistic that the wealthy pay 90% of all taxes? It makes me wonder how are you defining wealthy, and how you are defining taxes. Are you including payroll taxes, and sales taxes that take a larger percentage from lower income people than upper income? Or are you just talking about income taxes?

    Even if you just want to talk about income taxes, I think the reason that the wealthy are paying such a large share right now has more to do with the fact that the wealthy have a much larger share of national income now than they did thirty or forty years ago, than the idea that they are overtaxed. Considering that the highest marginal tax rate is currently 35% while in the 1950's it was 90%, it is hard to argue that tax rates for the wealthy are too high right now.

    As far as spending goes, if you compare the government's share of the national economy to what it was in years past, as well as comparing it to what other similar countries spend, I think you will find that US government spending is not particularly high rate now. As a share of GDP the government's spending went up a bit in the last couple of years, but that is mainly because GDP actually went down. Our government's problem right now is much more of a revenue problem than a spending problem. And the biggest bite out of revenue was caused by the recession itself, which caused tax revenues to fall tremendously. Get people back to work, and revenues will go back up. In the short run, however, the government needs to spend more money to make that happen, to make up for the decline in consumer demand.

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  3. Remember those cartoon characters whose heads spasm left to right while their fingers point everywhere but at them selves? We liked them, right?

    The Senate last passed a budget over 900 days ago. Passing a yearly budget for the federal government is a fundamental responsibility of Congress. Lawmakers do not have to spend their time naming post offices or passing health care reform. But they do have to pass a budget.

    It’s not that members just didn’t have time. The truth is that Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi feared that passing a budget would hurt their chances in the November midterm elections. So they did nothing and took a beating at the polls anyway.

    And now it’s on the Republicans?! I agree; it is on Republicans; and Democrats. Both parties.

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  4. Kevin, you are not reading reliable sources. Passing a budget is in no way a fundamental responsibility of Congress. It is certainly not in the Constitution, where you would expect to find all of the fundamental responsibilities of Congress. In fact, prior to the 1970's, Congress had not responsibility to prepare a budget at all. It is the President who submits a proposed budget to Congress, and Congress authorizes spending by various means, including appropriation bills, but other means also. Yes, Congress now has a budget process, but it has little to do with how the government decides to spend money or raise money. And this is not the first time it has broken down.

    In any case what you are talking about has nothing whatsoever to do with the subject of my post, which is about whether Republicans are consistently interested in cutting taxes, or cutting the deficit, or stimulating the economy as they claim they are. You're just looking for something to criticize the Democrats for also.

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  5. It is indeed fairly baffling to me, Joe. When I heard that they were trying to block the extension of the payroll tax cuts, I was fairly irked.

    I don't think they're stupid, however. My guess is that their biggest campaign contributors are very wealthy Americans, which makes sense as to why they'd protect those higher tax brackets. It's the same reason that the Democrats protect the lower tax brackets, because those are the people that will contribute and give them the votes.

    As for seemingly screwing the middle class people that support the party, my guess is that they figure they've got their support on emotionally charged issues like abortion, same-sex marriage, and other things like that. Their strategists probably tell them that the people who feel strongly about those issues would never, ever vote for a Democrat under any circumstances because they're ideologically opposed on those.

    We might suppose that their stance on tax breaks might make getting out the vote a lot harder, but I think a lot of people in the Republican base care more about unborn babies and gay marriage than they do their payroll taxes.

    Politicians have to go where the money is. It's sad, but I think it's largely true these days.

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  6. You do know that the reduced payroll taxes are deeply cutting into Social Security, right?

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  7. Joe, you are at least half correct. I am looking (and it's not hard) to criticize congress (all of them). About 90% of the people agree with me.

    My point, the Republicans baffle even the most right of the right sometimes. And the Dems do the same by their crazy stuff in an effort to remain in power and in specific offices as well. I can't support the status quo on either side.

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  8. Harrison, thanks for your concern for the Social Security trust fund. Is that why tax cuts for the middle class must be paid for, but tax cuts for the rich do not? Because we care about the health of the trust fund, but we don't care about the deficit for the rest of the federal budget?

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  9. Joe, tax cuts or not this would not impact upon Social Security at all... if one's taxes are cut by 20% SS still takes the same chunk out of your paycheck. With the current reduced payroll taxes workers ARE in effect seeing a tax cut but that is because SS withdraws have been artificially lowered.

    Important difference, n'est pas?

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  10. Loving the rhetoric this week!

    From Gutfeld: what do you get when you mix Presidents Lincoln, Truman and JFK?

    Answer: Jimmy Carter :)

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  11. I am on record, I dig Kirby the elf who wants to be a dentist and Rudolph and his red nose.

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