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David Harsanyi: For GOP, Losing Might Be the Only Way to Win

By David Harsanyi | @davidharsanyi |

According to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, 73 percent of Democrats and 63 percent of independents — and even 39 percent of Republicans — now favor raising taxes on those making $250,000 or more a year. So give the people want they want.

As it is, the GOP is engaged in an unwinnable scrum with President Barack Obama, a man chasing the gold-plated Holy Grail of hiking top marginal tax rates on the rich and small businesses — bringing in, according to the Congressional Budget Office, a few days worth of revenue. Concede the Bush-era tax rate (though you wonder what the president is going to talk about for the next four years) and move past the cliff.

So says Tom Cole, Republican congressman from Oklahoma. “Some people think that’s our leverage in the debate,” he told fellow members. “It’s the Democrats’ leverage in the debate.” House Speaker John Boehner quickly shut down this scandalous talk, but really, other options are even more distasteful.

There is no chance of a “balanced approach” on debt when you have no leverage. If these Republicans, unprepared for political warfare at this level, lose a game of fiscal cliff chicken, they will take the blame for across-the-board tax hikes. Obama won’t be held culpable for holding the economy hostage over some piddling revenue from the rich. He won’t be blamed for the ensuing recession. The media will be too busy investigating obstructionism and applauding the president’s gleaming new tax plan.

Having already largely conceded that taxes will be raised, a wide-ranging bipartisan deal on debt made under duress has no upside for Republicans — either as policy or politics. It would entail surrendering genuine reform on entitlements, which is worse than a tax increase. Obama, Harry Reid and Dick Durbin have already indicated that Social Security reform should not be part of any fiscal cliff deal. Durbin even falsely claimed that Social Security does “not add one penny to the debt.” And any Medicare reform is treated as if the GOP were proposing geriatricide.

Moreover, even if a watered-down bipartisan “solution” was struck, Democrats would then be able to use Republicans as human shields against any blowback, while, simultaneously, the president would be taking full credit for enacting a middle-class tax cut he had nothing to do with.

The American people? They’ll still be staring at a dangerous debt crisis.

So even though raising taxes is a terrible idea, clearing the deck of one of the most effective political distractions ever concocted, the Bush-era tax rate, allows the GOP to recalibrate a debate they’ve been losing for four years.

This week the president said, “Our ultimate goal is an agreement that gets our long-term deficit under control in a way that is fair and balanced.” A few years before, when he promised to cut the deficit in half, Obama claimed that “this will not be easy. It will require us to make difficult decisions and face challenges we’ve long neglected.”

So what are these hard decisions?

Republicans have already offered at least two detailed plans. One from Sen. Pat Toomey and another one more recently from Sen. Bob Corker — which offers some reforms on Social Security, new revenue and a cap on itemized deductions after $50,000. Democrats? They’ve balked on spending cuts. Balked on entitlement reform. What’s left? A value added tax? A carbon tax? What’s left after the rich pay their “fair share”?

What’s left for Republicans is a fight over tax and entitlement reform that could make Obama’s victory today mean far less tomorrow.

David Harsanyi is a columnist and senior reporter at Human Events. Click here for more information, or click here to contact him. Follow him on Twitter: @davidharsanyi.




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» on 11.30.12 @ 12:19 PM

The GOP would do so much better if they would stop this asinine cheer leading of pirates, looters, pillagers and gamblers. It’s not the wealthy or wealth that should be taxed but how you got it. Loot a productive company, drive it into the dirt and liquefy it to line your pocket, pay a 99% tax. Become a billionaire developing a company that actually adds wealth to the economy and get a great tax break. Run a law firm that produces nothing and is a proven drain on the economy pay a 45% tax on income. Run a service that is a net negative on the economy pay. If you add value get a break.

It’s not picking winners and losers, but rather producers and consumers. The market will determine winners and losers not some idiot ideolog in Washington. If you are in a net consuming sector of the economy be prepared to pay a heavy tax. If you are in a productive sector, enjoy the rewards of not only lower taxes but knowing you are building wealth, not consuming it.

» on 11.30.12 @ 02:21 PM

If the GOP TeaPublicans continue obfuscating the Grand Bargain Holy Grail, the Federal credit rating will go down again and match the Republican rating of KK+.

» on 11.30.12 @ 05:04 PM

Good, grief, have the guy you voted for STOP SPENDING MONEY HE DOESN’”T FRIGGEN HAVE! It’s that friggen simple. Stop blaming the GOP for your side’s asinine spending habits. No it’s not a tax problem because you spent the money knowing what the taxes were and knowing the money wasn’t there.

Raising taxes to cover an obscene spending addiction does not solve anything. It drains more capital out of markets for crap with a horrible ROI. If BO wants to salvage the credit rating he needs to roll back spending until there is no deficit, period. If any taxes are raised it should be on his favorite economic sectors, finance and law, the biggest wealth suck parasites in the private sector.

» on 11.30.12 @ 06:26 PM

In the 2nd half of the 19th century, Congress was often the play-thing of special
interests and monopolies, which each “owned” one or two key senators or House
members.

Since the Gingrich ideological onslaught almost twenty years ago, successive
Congresses, even pre-Tea Party, have become increasingly dysfunctional, putting party caucus allegiance or major-donor wishes ahead of the oath of office, or the national interest.

It is time for both parties to check their rhetorical media talking points at the door, roll up their sleeves, and find a way to effectively begin moving toward
Simpson-Bowles long-term reforms.

It’s taken a generation of tax&spend; Donkeys, spend&spend; Elephants, and
perhaps the lamest administration since Warren Harding [GW Bush] to ruin the
economy, but boy, these clowns have come really close.

If they can’t, or won’t, even try to make things work, they should surrender their
salaries, their travel junkets, and their perks of office, and just step aside so the
few who are interested resolving this can get something done.

Ditto, Obama and his spin-doctors.

All his “Lincoln” metaphors are great. But the real Abe Lincoln got a lot of stuff
done in a much worse emergency, in a lot less time.

Time to stop quoting Lincoln, and start emulating him.

» on 12.01.12 @ 05:19 PM

Publius, we have got to get past blaming Bush for the dire straights we are in now. As bad as Bush was he did not create the mess, we did. Its beginnings were some 40 years ago when we decided to be “consumers” rather than “producers” and had their roots some 9 decades ago when progressives falsely adopted Maynard Keys philosophy of economics. FDR was the first to put that philosophy to work during the great depression and prolonged the contraction and slow recovery for 10 long years. WWII’s extreme expansion of resource extraction, refinement and manufacturing brought us out, but only because we were the producers to the world after the war.

When we started running trade deficits due to lopsided trade laws and business killing labor and environmental regulation and decided gambling, speculating and running market ponzi schemes leading to wide scale looting and pirating of our built manufacturing base was the “new paradigm” did we start getting in trouble. The tech boom of the 80’s and 90’s would have reversed that had we not decided to let the dogs loose on our markets. By the time Bush came into office we had culturally legitimized looting and pirating by both leftist labor and socialists interests and the banksters and Wall Street fat cats.

Simpson-Bowls will not reverse our pompous, shallow, short sighted, selfish culture that Obama embodies in his soak the rich socialist schemes or the right embodies in its worship of market pirates and looters. Nor will it be effective against our absolute blindness to history as you example in your blaming the last administration.

What will work is giving that idiot European socialist worshiper in the White House a black eye, right along with those GOP who think Mitt Romney, the quintessential Wall Street fat cat, was their savior. But to do that Publius we have to take a real long hard look in the mirror and see ourselves for what we have become. We are no longer the risk taking pioneers who built the biggest, best and brightest, put a man on the moon and stood for equality under the law, not equal outcomes no matter how useless and lazy you are.

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