Throughout the debate about raising the federal debt ceiling, Republicans have denied deal after deal because Democrats insist on adding new revenues to trillions of dollars in spending cuts. Republicans have opposed repealing oil and gas subsidies, removing a tax loophole for corporate jet owners, letting the Bush tax cuts expire, and all other forms of revenue Democrats have suggested. Raising taxes in a weak economy, they argue, is unthinkable — even if conservative patriarch Ronald Reagan did just that.
But there is one tax increase some Republicans seem to favor: raising taxes on the working poor, senior citizens, and other low-income Americans.
While they fight the expiration of the budget-busting Bush tax cuts, Republicans have continually cited a report that shows that 51 percent of Americans don’t pay income taxes, even admitting that middle- and lower-class Americans need to shoulder a larger burden in deficit reduction efforts. Here is a sample of Republicans who have made that argument:
Sen. Orrin Hatch
(R-UT): In a May 5 appearance on MSNBC, Hatch said, “The place where you’ve got to get revenues has to come from the middle class,” saying the poor needed to understand “that there’s a civic duty on the part of every one of us to help this government to, uh, to be better.” On the Senate floor July 7, Hatch said the poor “need to share some of the responsibility” for deficit reduction.
Sen. John Cornyn
(R-TX): Cornyn also cited the report on the Senate floor July 7, when he said Congress needed to address tax reform to make the system “flatter, fairer, and simpler.” He then cited the report, saying, “51 percent — that is — a majority of American households — paid no income tax in 2009. Zero. Zip. Nada.”
Sen. Dan Coats
(R-IN): Coats echoed the talking point last weekend, saying “everyone needs to have some skin in the game.” He added: “I realize that some with low incomes and not much money are not paying much in taxes. Nonetheless, we all have a stake in this country and what needs to be done. I think it’s important that this burden not just fall on 50 percent of the people but falls on all of us in some form.”
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor
(R-VA): Cantor was among the first Republicans to begin hitting this particular talking point, doing so in April on CNBC’s Squawk Box. “We also have a situation in this country where you’re nearing 50 percent of people who don’t even pay income taxes,” he said.
Republicans, of course, ignore why most of the 51 percent do not pay income taxes and the myriad ways in which they are subject to other forms of taxation. The majority who do not pay federal income taxes simply do not make enough money to qualify for even the lowest tax bracket. But they do contribute through payroll, state, and sales taxes. Less than a quarter of Americans don’t contribute to federal tax receipts, and the majority of those are students, the elderly, or the unemployed.
By: Travis Waldron, Think Progress, July 25, 2011
One can only dream of a Republican Party led by grown-ups. Instead, we have this.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) challenged President Obama on Thursday to meet with Senate Republicans to hear firsthand about the political reality of passing tax increases through Congress.
A day after Obama challenged Republicans to give up special tax breaks for corporate jets and major oil companies, McConnell issued a challenge of his own on the Senate floor.
“I’d like to invite the president to come to the Capitol today to meet with Senate Republicans. Any time this afternoon if he’s available, to come on up to the Capitol,” McConnell said. “That way he can hear directly from Senate Republicans … why what he’s proposing will not pass.”
McConnell says once Obama learns from GOP lawmakers that ending special tax breaks for oil companies and wealthy families has no chance of passing the Senate, “we can start talking about — maybe, finally — start talking about what’s actually possible.”
Let me summarize the message McConnell announced this morning: “If the president has some free time in a few hours, he should stop by and listen to us tell him we want to lower the deficit, but only in ways we see fit.”
Soon after, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters the president need not hear Republicans “restate their maximalist position,” adding, “We know that position. That’s not a conversation worth having.”
Of course not. Everyone knows what everyone thinks and everyone’s position at this point. Obama doesn’t need to listen to Republicans demand 100% of what they want, anymore than McConnell needs to listen to Democrats tell him he can’t get 100% of what he wants.
This entire process made a right turn at farcical quite a while ago. Mitch McConnell isn’t just threatening to crash the economy, he’s also threatening to make mockery of the institution he claims to serve and turn the American political process into a reality-show circus.
Not to be outdone, NRSC Chairman John Cornyn (R-Texas) said President Obama has “diminished” his office by urging lawmakers to do their duty. If anyone explain what on earth Cornyn was blabbering about, I’m all ears.
And then there’s Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, who told Fox News this morning that the president goes golfing too much.
These aren’t random House backbenchers — McConnell, Cornyn, and Thune are three of the top four highest-ranking Republican members of the Senate. And they all appear to be rambling incoherently.
I was about to type that there are no adults left in the Republicans’ room, but that’s not entirely true. There are still a couple left, but they’re stuck in primary fights, so they have to go along with the madness to save their careers.
It’s a pathetic display.
By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Political Animal, The Washington Monthly, June 30, 2011
As a participant in the great health-care wars of 2010, it’s been — I don’t know: Amusing? Depressing? Annoying? Vindicating? — to watch Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget run over every principle or concern that Republicans considered so life-or-death a mere 400 days ago. A partial list:
Big changes need to be bipartisan changes. “The only bipartisanship we’ve seen on [the health-care] bill is in opposition to it,” said Eric Cantor, now the House majority leader. “When the stakes are this high – reforming 20 percent of the U.S. economy – there must be constructive conversations and negotiations from Republicans and Democrats in both houses of Congress,” wroteformer representative Tom Davis. The Ryan budget, which is unquestionably a more ambitious document than the Affordable Care Act, passed the House with no Democratic votes and four Republicans voting no. The only thing bipartisan was the opposition, etc. This appears to have given no Republicans anywhere any pause.
Polls matter. In March 2010, John Boehner was very, very upset that Democrats were working to pass a health-care law that a slight plurality opposed in polls. “President Obama made clear he is willing to say and do anything to defy the will of the people and force his job-killing health care plan through Congress,” he thundered. Last week, Speaker Boehner and the Republicans passed Ryan’s budget. How do its elements poll? Much, much worsethan the Affordable Care Act.
The Affordable Care Act’s Medicare cuts will devastate hospitals! Last fall, Ryan’s health-policy guru was saying,“The official Medicare actuaries have determined that approximately 15 percent of hospitals will be driven out of business in less than ten years if these cuts go through and called the cuts ‘clearly unworkable and almost certain to be overridden by Congress.’” Now those same cuts are in Ryan’s budget. C’est la vie, I guess (that’s French for “only Democratic cuts hurt hospitals”).
The Affordable Care Act’s savings don’t begin quickly enough! When the tax on expensive employer-provided insurance plans was pushed back to 2018, conservatives were outraged. “The odds are high that the excise tax will never actually happen,” wrote David Brooks. “There is no reason to think that the Congress of 2018 will be any braver than the Congress of today.” It was a fair argument: Cost savings that begin in the future are less certain than cost savings that begin now. So when does, say, Ryan’s voucherization of Medicare begin? Not 2012. And no, it’s not 2018. It’s 2022.
There’s no reform in the Affordable Care Act. “It would take Sherlock Holmes armed with the latest GPS technology and a pack of bloodhounds to find ‘reform’ in the $2.5 trillion version of the health-care bill we are supposed to vote on in the next few days,” then-Sen. Judd Gregg wrote. But apparently Holmes got his iPhone out, because now the Affordable Care Act is chock-full of reforms. In fact, it’s the model Republicans are following. “It’s exactly like Obamacare,” Sen. John Cornyn saidof the Ryan plan. “It is. It’s exactly like it.” And he meant that as a compliment!
The Congressional Budget Office will score anything you tell it to. “Garbage in, garbage out,” Sen. John McCain said. “Can you really rely on the numbers that the Congressional Budget Office comes out with?” asked Fox’s Steve Doocy. Now, of course, Republicans are touting CBO’s estimates of Ryan’s savings.
First, “do no harm.” That was former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele’s big applause line. “Republicans want reform that should, first, do no harm, especially to our seniors,” he wrote in The Washington Post. Cantor said the Affordable Care Act would “cut Medicare for our seniors and increase premiums for many Virginians.” Say what you will about Ryan’s budget, but going from paying 25-30 percent of your Medicare costs to 70 percent cuts your Medicare while increasing your premiums. Steele also said that “we need to protect Medicare and not cut it in the name of ‘health-insurance reform.’ ” Instead, it’s getting cut in the name of tax cuts. To be fair, Ramesh Ponnuru saw this one coming, so I can’t say conservatives were denying it at the time.
I’m sure I’ve forgotten a couple, but that’s what the comment section is for. The natural next question is whether Democrats have been similarly hypocritical in their opposition to Ryan’s plan. So far as I can tell, we’ve not seen it: Democrats think the plan puts too much of a burden on the backs of seniors and the poor — two things they worried about constantly during the Affordable Care Act — and cuts too many taxes for the rich. They also note that the Congressional Budget Office says privatizing Medicare will make it more expensive — the same finding that led to liberal advocacy for a public option. But if I’m missing something here, I imagine it, too, will come up in comments.
By: Ezra Klein, The Washington Post, April 21, 2011