Tax-Cut Religion and Republican Crybabies

Boehner-cryingAll that was missing was John Boehner sobbing uncontrollably in front of a microphone when Republicans walked out of negotiations with Vice President Joe Biden and Congressional Democrats over structuring a spending related package to increase the nation's debt limit, which must be raised by August 2 to avoid very dire consequences. You see, apparently, VP Biden and Congressional Democrats are proving a little bit of a tough cookie for the Republicans to take the heat, and so they ran out and started throwing tantrums.

But why, you ask? Why else, they couldn't resolve the ... umm, "tax issue" as Eric Can't[or] calls it. President Obama's representative VP Biden as well as Congressional Democrats had the temerity to insist that certain revenue measures are required to put the nation's fiscal health back together and not just spending cuts. But of course, the Republicans can't spend time worrying about fiscal health; they have poor people and the elderly to screw and the oil barons to lick the feet of.
Mr. Cantor had previously expressed optimism that the sessions could produce a deal. But he announced he would not be attending Thursday’s scheduled meeting because Democrats continued to press for part of the more than $2 trillion savings target to come from moves like phasing out tax breaks.
Boehner complained that Democrats are trying to "raise taxes on the American people," when all they are really trying to do is phase out things like the oil industry giveaway and ridiculous tax loopholes and tax shelters that allow multinational corporations and the uber-rich who pledge allegiance to their bank accounts and not the American flag to get away with paying little to no taxes at all.

Speaking for those of us without the luxury of the tax-cut religion - aka those of us who live in the real world - Rep. Jim Clyburn:
“We cannot balance the budget solely on the backs of the middle class,” said Representative James E. Clyburn, Democrat of South Carolina, a member of the House leadership taking part in the talks. “We simply must forge a bipartisan agreement. Failure is not an option, and I hope a bipartisan resolution will be achieved.”

Democrats have repeatedly said that they could not support a budget deal that relies solely on spending cuts and other program changes to produce the more than $2 trillion in savings. Officials said Wednesday’s negotiating session was unusually tense as Democrats sought to get Republicans to commit to some revenue increases in exchange for Democratic concessions on spending cuts.
Let's get this straight: There is not enough spending to cut to bring us back to fiscal balance. While cuts in spending in unnecessary and ineffective programs are indispensable, the structural problem of our budget is the spending in our tax code - or the revenue that we lose thanks to gaping loopholes in our tax code that are geared to help the ultra wealthy. Tax expenditures amount to $1.2 trillion each year - and the right wing whackjobs in Congress still don't think we have a revenue problem. Not each tax expenditure is independently bad, of course, but generally those are regressive in nature, benefits the wealthy more than the middle class and the poor and economically speaking, a bad way to lower the effective tax (instead, one may consider simply lowering the marginal rates and letting consumer choices rather than tax expenditures determine consumer spending).

In today's political world, we will not be able to get rid of all tax expenditures. Even restructuring tax expenditures so that the middle class can still take advantage of them while limiting their effect on the amazingly wealthy - ideas such as capping the amount on which mortgage interest deductions can be taken (perhaps varied by area and income distribution), eliminating offshore tax shelters and oil subsidies, etc. - can have a significant impact.

But anything that would tinker with the tax code in a way to make it more fair will necessarily increase the effective taxes on the ultrawealthy (individuals and corporations). Why? Because the current tax code is skewed so far in favor of the rich and away form everyone else that any reform to it must reverse that trend. It would be the right thing to do for the American people, but it would not please Grover Norquist. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) put two and two together, and figured out just where the interest of the Republicans lie: what Grover Norquist is saying, not what the American people need.



So where does this leave us? It leaves us with President Obama, Speaker Crybaby Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Reid to pick up the ball and get a deal done that will make it possible for us to raise the debt limit so that we do not have to default on our country's obligations (yes, that includes your social security government check, Mr. Teabagger).

One thing is for sure though: Joe Biden and Democrats in these negotiations have shown the guts to insist on doing something right for this country. What does that mean? It means President Obama is not in a mood to "roll over" as our whiny friends on the Purity Left might fantacize. President Obama knows that the ultimate chip here is that the debt limit has to be raised, and the Republicans know it. They want to use it as an opportunity to end Medicare and Social Security. Their problem is that the party that created those programs has a President right now who is looking out for the interest of ordinary people, not extraordinary thieves (this, incidentally is also the problem with PL's Obama-rolls-over falsehood). A big part of it is also that Republicans want to use the debt limit vote to take away the most potent weapon they handed Democrats by voting to eliminate Medicare. It looks like Democrats are also having none of that.

That puts Congressional Republicans between a rock and a hard place. Or worse, between their own Medicare vote and President Obama. Politically, there is no win here for them - except possibly by agreeing to a reasonable deal with the President and coming out looking half reasonable int he process. But that's only a political win in the long term for them; in the shorter term, the whackjobs inspired by Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, Palin and Bachmann will eat them alive.

Sometimes, I almost feel sorry for the poor bastards. Almost.