Ezra Klein’s post this morning hits the nail on the head regarding the end game of the debt ceiling debate. They need to stand tough against the Bush-era tax cuts.
Democrats will have exactly one chance to overcome the GOP’s resistance to tax revenue. Next year, the Bush tax cuts expire. If Congress does nothing, we revert to Clinton-era tax rates for everyone, and the federal coffers fill with $3.6 trillion in additional revenue over the next 10 years — enough to stabilize deficits.
This is the meat of the debt ceiling deal as I posted about previously. And in this case, standing tough means doing absolutely… nothing.
They don’t need to act, they don’t need to whip votes, they don’t need to negotiate. They just need to stand aside and let the cuts expire. But that won’t necessarily be easy. A big part of those cuts – the larger portion – is cuts for the middle class. And the R’s will play that up hugely. And they will try to play the same game, making sure that cuts for the rich pass before they pass anything for the middle class. They did it at the end of 2010, and they’ll do it again.
So, it will be a fight. But it doesn’t have to be a difficult one. What it does require is selling voters on the fact that yes, their cuts will go away, but so will the cuts for the fat cats. And it’s going to require showing what the real difference in those cuts mean. And with the revenue rules in place, requiring that any increase in spending is offset, and that 50% of that offset comes from defense spending, it’s simply a matter of Dems playing the Republican game (as Klein points out). Which is more “patriotic”, keeping the tax custs and shorting defense, or losing the tax cuts and keeping defense strong?
That will be an interesting debate.