It must be hard to be part of the Republican party, or to support the right. It requires mental gymnastics worthy of a gold medal. The more strident they become on an issue, the more convoluted their reasoning has to become to be able to support that reasoning. This weekend provided some glorious examples of that kind of exercise.
Tax Cuts Are Awesome. Except When They’re Not
Over the weekend, the AP ran a story about the upcoming expiration of payroll tax cuts. Payroll taxes are what everyone who receives an income must pay on payroll incomes up to $106,000 per year. Payroll income above that is not taxed. It translates to about $1,000 per year. Not huge, but significant.
Republicans are all about putting more money in the pockets of taxpayers, right? Not so fast. From the AP article:
Many of the same Republicans who fought hammer-and-tong to keep the George W. Bush-era income tax cuts from expiring on schedule are now saying a different “temporary” tax cut should end as planned. By their own definition, that amounts to a tax increase.
The tax break extension they oppose is sought by President Barack Obama. Unlike proposed changes in the income tax, this policy helps the 46 percent of all Americans who owe no federal income taxes but who pay a “payroll tax” on practically every dime they earn.
There are other differences as well, and Republicans say their stand is consistent with their goal of long-term tax policies that will spur employment and lend greater certainty to the economy.
“It’s always a net positive to let taxpayers keep more of what they earn,” says Rep. Jeb Hensarling, “but not all tax relief is created equal for the purposes of helping to get the economy moving again.” The Texas lawmaker is on the House GOP leadership team.
So, now it’s a difference between “temporary” and “permanent” tax cuts. As a side note, Hensarling is one of the people appointed to the “super-committee” on deficit reduction. Remember when we said that would turn into an impasse?
But surely, the expiration of the tax break is considered a tax increase by the Republicans, right? They all signed Grover Norquist’s pledge not to increase taxes – ever. Greg Sargent asked that very question:
So according to Hensarling, it would be a “net positive” to let taxpayers keep more of what they earn — which is what a temporary extension of the payroll tax cut would do. Yet Republicans seem to oppose the temporary extension anyway, on the grounds that permanent tax cuts are necessary and better policy.
Which prompted a question from Chuck Schumer spokesman Brian Fallon: “Surely @GroverNorquist wld say that letting President’s payroll tax cut lapse is a violation of ATR pledge, right?”
It’s a fair question. Virtually every Republican in Congress has signed Norquist’s and Americans for Tax Reform’s pledge not to raise taxes. What’s more, even Norquist himself has referred to the refusal to extend temporary tax cuts as a tax hike — and a violation of the pledge. Recall that back when there was some controversy over whether Norquist had let slip that not extending the Bush tax cuts would not violate his pledge, Norquist clarified that failure to extend them absolutely would violate it.:
Any failure to extend or make permanent the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, in whole or in part, would clearly increase taxes on the American people.
In other words, in the eyes of the fearsome Norquist and his Almighty Pledge, even a failure to extend tax cuts temporarily amounts to a tax increase.
As of this writing, Greg hadn’t received a response.
So, to recap, the expiration of tax extensions are bad, and an increase in taxes. Unless they were temporary extensions, like the payroll tax break extension, or the Bush-era tax cuts, which were temporary. Because those were bad right? In the topsy-turvy, black-is-white world of the current GOP, it’s hard to tell.
Of course, there is one definite difference between the two. The payroll tax extension doesn’t help the rich, because it’s only on payroll tax, and only affects the first $106,000 in income. Since the rich pay no payroll tax on income above $106,000 per year, and because the majority of their income is not in payroll anyway, they stand to gain very little from this extension. The rest of Americans get some help. The Bush-era tax cuts do the opposite – they only marginally help the average American, but deliver big to those on the hihh end of the scale. Money talks.
Republicans have couched this in “deficit reduction” rhetoric. The payroll tax break extension would cost about $120B per year. That’s bad for the deficit, say the Republicans. Meanwhile, the Bush-era tax cuts cost about $400B per year – but that doesn’t affect the deficit.
Where Are The Jobs?
During the 2010 midterms, Republicans railed against the President and Democrats because of the unemployment numbers. They ran on the promise that they would make job creation their prime focus. To date, they have not presented a single jobs bill in Congress, and continue to rail against the Democrats and the President, despite the Republicans control of the House.
Democratic Rep. John Larson of Connecticut plans to push the supercommittee that was appointed as part of the deficit-reduction deal to come up with a plan to create jobs. My colleague Greg Sargent hasthe scoop:
Larson and other senior Dems are also gravitating towards several new proposals to get the current super-committee to adopt job creation as a core mission, along with deficit reduction. This basic idea already has broad support among Congressional Dems.
Larson and Dems plan to introduce several proposals next week along these lines to amend the current law creating the super-committee — and they will ask Congress to pick from among them. One proposal would simply amend the super-committee’s current mission to include job creation. The second would ask each of the four Congressional leaders to appoint one more person to the committee, bringing its membership to 16 — and create a sub-committee on job creation that would produce a jobs proposal as part of the final deficit reduction package.
Here’s the interesting part: Both those proposals would require that the “trigger” also kick in if the committee fails to agree on a jobs proposal as part of the overall deficit deal. And both would set a clear goal: The proposal has to represent a credible effort to bring unemployment down to 5.5 percent by 2014. If the committee can’t pass such a proposal, the “trigger,” which contains defense and non-defense cuts to discourage the committee from failing, gets pulled.
Can a proposal like this gain steam on the Hill? Larson says the measure will “call [Republicans’] bluff” on job creation. If Republicans don’t endorse the plan, Sargent writes, they “will be saying No to the very idea that Congress should make active proposals to reduce unemployment to a targeted rate a core mission.”
That’s not exactly how Congressional Republicans will see it or spin it. I ran Larson’s proposal by House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) office on Friday afternoon, and it was immediately shot down. The response: Deficit reduction will spur job creation and, therefore, the supercommittee does not need to take on an additional mission.
So, once again, we have Republicans using job creation as a wedge, complaining that nothing is being done. Right up until something is proposed, something with teeth. And the response from the right? Nope, not gonna do it. Their stated objection is that it might be “some sort of new window-dressing for the same tired old, discredited Washington stimulus spending proposals”, according to Boehner spokesperson Michael Steel. But the commission is there to reduce deficits – and must do so to avoid the triggers. So it’s a specious argument.
But in the upside-down, inside-out world of the GOP, assigning responsibility for the job creation legislation is bad, complaining about no job legislation is good.
Moammar Ghad…Qadaf…Gadaf…Oh, Bother.
Republicans have been all over the place when it comes to Libya. Some say we shouldn’t have been there without an end game. A great many said we the President was embarrassing the US by not taking the lead role in the UN efforts to protect the Libyan people. As with just about everything since President Obama took office, Republicans have been against him, no matter what.
This weekend, rebel forces took control of Tripoli, capturing the Libyan leader’s sons and putting him on the run. Libyan people are holding up signs thanking the UN and President Obama. Another dictator has been deposed. The Republican response? The President didn’t do enough.
Once again, this is an issue of the Republicans not being able to give credit where credit is due. The President presided over the killing of Osama Bin Laden, but Republicans refused to give him credit. Now, the President once again has maneuvered the tricky waters of international cooperation to a successful conclusion, and they refuse to give him the credit.
Why? Because in their world, it is weakness to actually understand how the world works. To them, strength comes from going it alone, from being the “Lone Ranger”, regardless of what it does to your standing in the world. Cooperating, actually working from within a coalition as opposed to strong-arming to get your way is seen as weak and ineffective.
How Do You Stand On Your Head That Long?
They can’t. Even as they dig in and try to reinforce their base, the conflicts in their arguments become more clear. The best way to handle them is not to handle them. Act as if their viewpoint doesn’t exist – because it doesn’t. They have one goal – to take control – and their viewpoints and talking points will change to accommodate that goal. They want their opposition to chase them, rather than simply stand their ground. The only real solution is to allow them to continue changing, then expose those changes every step of the way. Reasonable folks, with a sound and rational mind, will see the flip-flopping, the contradictions and the folly on their own. And that is the last thing the GOP wants.