Conservatives For Higher Taxes
Michael Shear of The New York Times takes a look at the bizarre phenomenon of conservative politicians and pundits who are perfectly willing to let tax rates go up across the board in just over two weeks:
With a critical procedural vote scheduled for Monday afternoon in the Senate, some Tea Party activists and other conservative pundits are attacking it from the other side.
A group called the Tea Party Patriots is circulating a petition accusing Republican lawmakers of cutting a bad backroom deal with the president that violates the principles that Tea Party candidates campaigned on in the midterm elections.
“‘The Deal’ revives the death tax, an immoral ‘vampire tax’ that sucks the blood from the dead, ruins family businesses and double taxes savings that were accumulated over a lifetime,” the petition says. “‘The Deal’ spends billions and billions of dollars that the country does not have in order to prevent a tax hike that the country voted against.”
Rush Limbaugh, the conservative radio host, said the tax deal “should not happen.” On his show Friday, Mr. Limbaugh blasted the Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill for giving in too much to Mr. Obama.
“The economic benefit here, if we do this deal, is going to be minimal,” Mr. Limbaugh said, insisting that Republicans should have fought for the permanent extension of the tax cuts rather than giving in to a temporary one. “Where is the Republican vision?”
Erik Erickson, the conservative blogger, wrote at Redstate.com that the “deal must now die.”
“It must now be opposed by Republicans,” Mr. Erickson wrote. “Released now in print, the legislation is loaded up with budget-busting pork of ridiculously absurd levels.”
Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska, appears to agree with Mr. Limbaugh. In a Twitter message, she endorsed the position of Senator Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, who has criticized the compromise.
The arguments from the right against the tax extension deal seem to boil down to four separate arguments, none of which holds up under even the most cursory examination.
The first problem that many on the right seem to have with the deal is the fact that it would reimpose the estate tax, which currently doesn’t exist thanks to an odd quirk in the law, from a rate of 0% to a rate of 35%. What this argument ignores is the fact that, if nothing is done before December 31st, then the estate tax will be coming back anyway, and it will be far more widely applicable than it would be under the deal worked out between Senate Republicans and the President. Under current law, the estate tax would return in 2011 with a rate of 55% on estates worth $1,000,000 or more. Under the terms of the deal, the estate tax would return at a rate of 35% on estates worth $5,000,000 or more. How anyone other than the most partisan ideologue cannot see this as a victory is beyond me.
The second feature of the deal that conservatives have attacked over the past week relates to the unemployment insurance “extension.” As I explained yesterday, what’s agreed to in the deal isn’t really an extension of unemployment benefits so much as it is a patch that will allow people who are still eligible to receive benefits can continue to receive them. More importantly, though, while there may be legitimate ideological objections to long-term unemployment compensation payments, any politician who tries to oppose extending unemployment at the same time they are favoring extending favorable tax rates for individuals making $ 250,000/year or more is simply not paying attention to political reality. When we’re in the middle of an era of incredibly slow job growth and high unemployment, taking that position is just political suicide.
The third argument coming from the right against the tax cut extension deal is the belief by some on the right that the GOP would be able to get a better deal when they take control of the House of Representatives, and have a smaller minority in the Senate, after January 3rd. Considering the fact that, at least when it came to the tax cut extension itself, the GOP got nearly everything it wanted from President Obama, it’s hard to believe that they could do any better a month from now than they did last week. Most importantly, given the amount of heat that the President has taken from his own party over the deal, it seems incredibly unlikely that he’d be willing to give the GOP any more than he already has. Finally, the people who think the GOP can do better in a month forget the fact that the Senate will still be controlled by Democrats, that you’ll still need to 60 votes to get anything through the Senate, and that the President has a veto pen.
Finally, there are a certain number of people on the right who simply want to reject the deal because it will work to the benefit of the President as well as the GOP. There really isn’t much that I can say about that argument other than it isn’t surprising to hear it coming from people who said they wanted the President to fail even before he took office. In the end, though, I think it’s this visceral need to destroy Barack Obama that motivates certain people on the right to abandon their principles and favor across-the-board tax cuts. Pretty sad.