Monday, September 13, 2010


I'm gloomy as usual -- in fact, I don't think Greg Sargent goes far enough in his post titled "Why Republicans Don't Fear Fight Over Tax Cuts for Rich":

... Republicans seem to be gambling that the nuance of the debate will get lost in all the noise, and people will see Dems as liberul tax-hikers even though they want to extend the tax cuts for the middle class. And that's clearly part of the game. But I think there's more to the GOP approach than just this.

Put simply, Republicans want a fight over taxes because they think the overtones of the debate will resonate with public pessimism about the very premise of the Dems' overall policy approach -- that government spending and intervention can turn the economy around.

...Republicans hope people perceive any Beltway argument about "raising taxes on Americans in a struggling economy" as another sign of "what's wrong with Washington." ...

I think that makes sense. I also think Republicans suspect that while most Americans agree with the notion of letting the tax cuts for the rich expire, it's quite possible that most likely midterm voters agree with the GOP. (According to the recent Gallup poll on this subject, a majority of Republicans want all the tax cuts renewed -- it's only a 54% majority, but I bet support for the tax cuts among the motivated hardcore base is much higher.)

And let's face it, there's an asymmetry here. Republicans can honestly say that they support keeping the tax cuts for the non-rich. If they were advocating a renewal of the cuts just for the rich, then they'd (probably) have a political problem, and the Democrats would clearly be taking the broad general public's side. But Republicans can argue that they really do have the interests of the middle class at heart -- they can say their intentions are good. That muddies the waters. In that case, the Democrats' "hostage" meme has to take hold -- and I think it's not at all clear that it will.

Actually, there's another asymmetry. Republicans fire up their voters just by putting up a fight to the death against Democrats. But Democrats actually have to win -- they can't just fight. I think the notion that their best move is to prolong this fight rather than hold a vote is nuts -- it just makes them look as if they're playing politics with the issue. It makes them look helpless and ineffectual -- and, well, they are probably helpless and ineffectual, because they have many defections in their caucus, in both the House and Senate, and they surely couldn't break a Senate filibuster even without those defections.

So I think Republicans have the upper hand -- as usual.

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