Line of the Day: Tax and Spend Edition
They aren't going to stop, but the cliches that pass for debate sure are tiresome (plus some musings about the tax cut extension debate).
“Our friends on the other side will always spend that money. That’s how they keep themselves in power”—Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT).
The context is the debate in the Senate over whether to extend all of the Bush tax cuts or just the tax cuts on either the first $250,000 of earnings or even the first $1,000,000 of earnings.
I have reached a point in life as both a citizen who has been interested in politics since he was a child during the Carter administration and as an adult analyst of politics that statements like this (that I used to have great sympathy for, by the way) grate on my nerves not unlike fingernails on a chalkboard because it is both clichéd beyond all measure and it is also highly disingenuous.
In regards to clichés, this is not a serious debating point, it is a caricature of complex policy problems.
More importantly, though, it is radically disingenuous. The pretense that the Republican Party is the party of fiscal discipline has long since passed from the realm of promised truth to exploded myth. As such, we need to more beyond hand-waving promises about the country’s fiscal health and enter into a more serious discussion.
Even if one accepts the assertion that the Democrats keep themselves in power by tax and spend, it seems that the Republicans think that their route to power is to promise lower taxes and all the popular federal program as well (sans “waste,” of course). I will take their assertions about the Democrats more seriously when they get their own intellectual house in order.
I am personally ambivalent about what the proper tax cut strategy is. Part of me thinks that the fiscal situation is sufficiently dire that we all should have to pay more to fix it, so I can see the logic of letting all the cuts expire. However, I fully recognize the difficulties in such a course of action in the current economic situation, so can see the argument for extensions (and, indeed, lean quite heavily towards a temporary extension). The question then becomes whether a full or partial extension is warranted. Given the fiscal problems we are facing, a partial extension strikes me as making more sense. At the moment, were I in the Senate, I likely would have voted for the option to extend the cuts on earnings up to one million dollars (which was defeated along with the $250K-level proposal).
Regardless of all that, the practical politics go like this: do the Democrats balk at a full extension on fiscal responsibility grounds even to the point of allowing all the cuts to expire, or do they blink and let the GOP get a full extension?
If the Democrats blink and the cuts are extended in toto, then the entire situation presents an interesting illustration of the functioning of US political institutions, i.e., the party that (currently) has an overwhelming majority in the House and a commanding one in the Senate will end up not getting what it wants, save in part, while the party of the minority will have gotten precisely what it wanted. Granted, the lame duck session and the results of the November elections are part of the calculus, it still is a noteworthy possible (likely?*) outcome.
Another interesting element here is time: how long will the two sides drag this out? The brinksmanship will only matter if the Democrats are actually willing to have no extension whatsoever.
*Yes, I know that I am now contradicting myself in terms of whether the GOP would filibuster this (I was obviously wrong)-call it a moment of analytical weakness and excessively quick posting.