For GOP, Losing Might Be the Only Way To Win

Raising taxes is a terrible idea but will clear the deck of one of the most effective political distractions ever concocted.

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 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.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • sarcasmic||

    Only when the rich are no longer rich will they have paid their "fair share".

  • Paul.||

    The bright side is, a lot of public sector employees are going to start paying their "fair share".

  • JohnD||

    No, the bright side will be when the public sector unions are dissolved and 50% of the workers are sent packing

  • Certified Public Asskicker||

    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.

    I have given up on thinking people will one day be good at math. It really is only about "fair share."

  • Zeb||

    Yeah, it is totally stupid. A lot of people really do seem to believe that raising the rates on the top earners will make any difference at all to the deficit. The only way to get more revenue is to have a more productive economy or to tax everyone at a much higher rate (and even that would probably require some sort of sales tax or VAT to do much).

  • Tulpa Doom||

    ROMNEY WOULD HAVE DONE IT TOO!!!!1!!!

  • Paul.||

    Hopefully you're not going to turn into Shrike II, The Revenge of Shrike, and harp on policial figures who haven't held office in decades...

  • Tulpa Doom||

    If that's what it takes, that's what I'll be.

  • BakedPenguin||

    TULPEROOOOOOOOOOOOO

  • ||

    Lulz. Tulpa, when you go out you need to be at least as exciting, promise?

  • nicole||

    Actually that would be Shrike II: Electric Tulpaloo

  • LTC(ret) John||

    Shrike II: This time its personal!?

  • sarcasmic||

    STRAW MEN ARE MADE OF STRAW!!1!!1ELEVEN!!

  • Tulpa Doom||

    Say what you will about Ed Krayewski, but he's not inflammable. Or is it not flammable?

  • Paul.||

    It's nonuninflammable.

  • RG||

    Give them everything. Let them own it and lets move on with the collapse.

  • silent v||

    Exactly. Just from a strategic point of view, I don't see what the Republicans are going for. When all is said and done, the Democratic plan is what is going to be implemented. Why not just concede this point and let the D's own the result?

  • nicole||

    Just like they owned the failure of stimulus? It just wasn't big enough! The tax hikes just weren't high enough!

  • Rasilio||

    That's the problem though, they didn't own the failure of the stimulus because the Republicans threw a hissy fit and "made them compromise".

    As a result they have given the Obama Administration and Congressional Democrats cover because any criticism of the stimulus can credibly be deflected by saying "No it wasn't big enough, also it's balance was screwed up by being too heavy on tax cuts and not enough spending, and we can thank those obstructionist Republicans for that".

  • Fluhdoten1||

    the reason they say that is because the media sells that narrative.

    its not a rational belief.

    the republicans dont deserve to come back tho. they were the party of fiscal constraint.

    the country was destroyed. so who fell down on the job? the party of tax and burn? spend and oppress?

    traitors are worse enemies than villains who cant control themselves and profess their actions in advance.

  • silent v||

    The stimulus was a continuation of W's policy. The R's couldn't really distance themselves from it when they supported it a few months previously. Marginal Tax Rates are one of the few issues the two parties have consistently differed on and if the R's very publicly accept it without endorsing it, the D's will not be able to walk away from the results.

  • WTF||

    the D's will not be able to walk away from the results.

    Seriously? The D's got away with blaming the last four years on Bush.

  • RG||

    Yes, but Obama's approval ratings have declined. Sooner or later, enough will be enough.

  • WTF||

    Sooner or later, enough will be enough.

    I would have thought so too, but with Obama's easy win after the record of the last four years, I tend to doubt it.

  • Loki||

    The D's will never be held resposible for any of their shit because the media will always cover for them. They'll find some way to somehow spin the story to blame those damn obstructionist R's.

  • RG||

    The collapse would finally end these stupid distractions and hopefully force people into paying attention to actual results of these policies.

    And, what else would Obama have to say for four years? Watching him twist in the wind as the economy either remains in stall speed or goes downhill would be great.

  • Tulpa Doom||

    Right now the GOP is like one of Markov's dogs strapped into a harness getting shocked for no reason. Learned helplessness, and the inevitable self-urination, are no fun.

  • DreasMommy||

    In a "fair" world, that would be the result, but the democrats won't own the fallout. The left and the media will figure out a way to blame the republicans. It was part of their strategy in 2006- the Bush Administration compromised on several things, and the left used it to gain control of congress in the '06 midterm elections. They're crafter f*ckers, and I wouldn't put it past them to do it in 2014/16.

  • Tulpa Doom||

    Then they get primaried for breaking Grover Norquist's idiotic pledge. It's a no-win situation.

  • Ptah-Hotep||

    Then they get primaried for breaking Grover Norquist's idiotic pledge. It's a no-win situation.

    They could pull an Obama and skip the vote, or vote present. Not sure it that would help them or not in the primaries.

  • Teaching Student||

    That's the direction I'm moving too. Fuck it, let it burn.

  • Ayn Random Variation||

    I agree. However, when it doesn't work, they will say that we need more tax hikes and, anyway, because of Bush blah blah it will take more time than we thought to fix the mess we inherited.

    IOW we are fucked. They have won, and will continue to be parasites until the host is nothing but a pile of dust. If I had any kids I would be concerned, but at this point I'm just going to keep staring at the car wreck in wonder and anticipation.

  • JohnD||

    Agreed. Let the "chosen one" and his acolytes own it.

  • Pro Libertate||

    What a scam. Raising taxes won't solve shit--the debt is far beyond that "solution." This is all about one thing: raising taxes. Not deficit reduction or anything else.

  • Paul.||

    As anyone with partial command of a few braincells knows, raising taxes is raising spending. The whole 'raise taxes' schtick is about creating cover for a spending increase. It's about 'guilt-free' spending.

    It's like your doctor telling you to cut down on your fatty foods to control your cholesterol. So you decide that you're going to get a little light exercise-- which in your mind justifies your eating MORE high cholesterol foods. Because you offset it, right?

  • Pro Libertate||

    The Democrats want a hirer baseline for taxes. That's it. The Republicans should oppose that. I think pushing for tax reform is probably their best counter, but even that isn't addressing the big problem.

    Only one thing will help us restore some semblance of fiscal sanity in the U.S. and save us from a Greece-like fate: spending cuts. Wholesale, deep, and permanent spending cuts.

  • Fluhdoten1||

    if the balance of power went back to republicans it wouldnt help.

    why prolong the agony? let liberalism come to its natural conclusion.

    the american ppl made a choice and chose poverty and ignorance time and again.

    the american ppl are so messed up they didnt even see-saw away from obama after he burned $6 trillion in new debt without the economy improving.

  • RightNut||

    I posted this in the other article, but Republicans should layout why higher taxes are not a good idea. That Republicans support lower taxes, less government, and less debt, and then let the Democrats raise taxes. Obama won the election, and the whole time was arguing for higher taxes. Elections have consequences, let Americans experience who they voted for.

  • Tulpa Doom||

    Republicans should layout why higher taxes are not a good idea.

    Good luck considering the media will not cover this at all, or twist their words as favoritism for the rich.

  • RightNut||

    They will twist what republicans say either way. If there is no debt deal, the media will blame republicans, if there is they will praise the democrats. Either way Republicans get screwed by the media, so they might as well ignore them.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Exactly. Might as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb.

  • Tulpa Doom||

    Easy for you to say when you don't have to stand for election in two years.

  • Drake||

    Good luck with those elections if you voted to raise taxes.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Whatever. If they don't want the responsibility for doing what this country desperately needs, they shouldn't run at all.

    The GOP should take a dive into anti-statism and make the battle lines clearer. They don't have to adopt libertarianism or even a classic minarchist position--just be a bastion against the total state the Democrats are stumbling and bumbling their way towards.

  • Paul.||

    just be a bastion against the total state the Democrats are stumbling and bumbling their way towards.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I think that's largely true, but I also think many of them are in denial about the increasingly inevitable consequences of what they're doing. I say that because they're doing all this knowing full well that the GOP could inherit unlimited power and decide to keep it all for their very own.

  • Paul.||


    I say that because they're doing all this knowing full well that the GOP could inherit unlimited power and decide to keep it all for their very own.

    I would agree with that on paper, but it never seems to play out in practice. You keep warning TEAM A that they're leaving a loaded gun on the table for TEAM B, and they won't have power forever... it never seems to really have an effect on their future actions. This very thing has been pointed out to T o n y a thousand times and he never seems to even flinch.

    Honestly, I think the reticence with leaving a loaded gun on the table is a purely libertarian mindset.

    To everyone else, it seems like it's just part of the game. They actually do think somewhat long term. "Yeah, I know I'm leaving that on the table, and the opposition may get hold of it for a while, but we'll get it back..."

  • Pro Libertate||

    It only really matters when the powers that be feel that they can seize power--suspend-elections seize, I mean--and get away with it.

  • Ptah-Hotep||

    That Republicans support lower taxes, less government, and less debt,...

    Except they don't.

  • Almanian.||

    Those are the Republicans with the mustaches who live in the Evil Twin universe.

  • CE||

    One out of three ain't bad?

  • RightNut||

    I do.

  • PapayaSF||

    Sadly, this may be true. But Republicans should not vote for higher taxes: they should vote "present." That will get media coverage. And they should lay out verifiable predictions: that the tax increases will bring in less than Democrats predict (they always do), that the economy will suffer, etc. And run on this in 2014 when we are in the next recession, caused by the tax hikes and by Obamacare.

  • CE||

    Agreed. The Democrats are good at pinning blame (with ample help from the media). Start playing their game a little better.

  • RightNut||

    Yes thats what i meant when i said let democrats raise taxes. Vote present, or just have enough members walk out to still allow a quorum.

  • PapayaSF||

    Voting "present" would be best because it's a jab at all the times Obama voted that way in the Illinois legislature.

  • Fluhdoten1||

    the only ppl aware of obama voting present are his opponents (or extremely well informed liberals).

    no average joe who likes obama has any clue about this.

    i agree present is a good symbolic act of defiance, but only obama haters will be aware of any connection to obamas legislative days.

  • DGPFL||

    In what world do the Republicans support less government and less debt?!

  • toolkien||

    The same world where Democrats abhor war.

  • Rasilio||

    For the GOP losing IS the only way to win.

    Look at it this way, we and presumably the GOP all agree that Democratic economic plans are doomed to failure, the problem is that forcing them to "compromise" gives them the intellectual cover to blame the failures on Republicans leading to more Democratic economic solutions. The only way to "win" is to get out of the way, give them everything they want in such a way that it is clear that there was no "compromise" and that the economic results are purely on the Democrats heads. Then after that failure is achieved and democrat economics has been proven a failure once and for all we can move forward with fixing the problems for real. On the flip side if we are all wrong and somehow the Democrat solutions actually work then the Republicans can win by claiming bipartaisanship.

    Right now with where they are the ONLY way for Republicans to win is by losing.

  • RightNut||

    " Then after that failure is achieved and democrat economics has been proven a failure once and for all we can move forward with fixing the problems for real. "
    Thats one scenario, here is another. Democratic policies lead to the countries financial implosion due to debt, and the democrats blame the rich, businesses, big oil, and the media parrots them. Welcome to the United States of Venezuela.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    If America becomes a Latin American Utopia, then that means we get to have rebels and war gangs. Good enough consolation prize for my destructive self.

  • Drake||

    Nope. If the GOP makes a "tax-the-rich" deal with Obama, they lose their conservative base forever. It's suicide.

    Better that they simply let the tax rates expire and everyone's taxes go up. In a month or a year, the Democrats might want a real deal.

    If the Democrats don't want a real deal, grow some balls don't raise the debt limit.

  • Rasilio||

    Wait what Deal?

    I specifically said no deal, A deal can be spun to be your fault. I said let the Democrats do whatever they wanted and let them reap the results, Do not contribute to the bills, vote present or abstain from voting on them but let them pass on the basis of the Democratic votes and publically explain that you are tired of being "Rope a Doped" by the Democrats and their compliant media so you are simply allowing the Democrats to have their way unopposed.

  • ||

    No they won't.

    Option A) Go over the fiscal cliff. 1/3 tax hikes, 1/3 defense spending, 1/3 domestic spending cuts.

    Option B) Exactly the same as A only with fewer tax hikes.

    Now why should the GOP pick A again?

  • califernian||

    It takes a certain level of insanity to believe the federal government just doesn't have enough money.

    3rd all-time highest revenues projected this year. 3 of the all time highest revenues came in 2007, 2008, 2012

    2013 estimates for receipts are all-time highest EVER.

    Only a congresscritter could possible state with a straight face that we need more revenue for the federal government.

  • Paul.||

    This is really where the Republicans should be pounding the hammer.

    They should start demanding to know from Democrats exactly how big the federal budget vis-a-vis spending should be? Bring out the charts which show spending at 1 point something something trillions a few years ago, then point to the current eleventy trillion something something the government spends now, and simply ask, "when will you be sated?"

    Do it in the context of attempting to make a deal. Get them to spit out a number and say, "ok, if we get government up to that level of size and spending, will you stop?"

    We use this same technique in IT when you have a problem user who keeps mumbling about needing "something" from their computing experience, but just aren't getting it. Force them to enumerate, exactly what's wrong and clarify exactly what they're not getting that they should be getting to do their job... it's amazing how quickly they get quiet.

    So for any democrats reading this thread, how big is big enough? That will at least give us a baseline we can start negotiating from. We know it's "bigger" but I'm just not yet clear on how bigger-er it needs to get.

  • CE||

    Or grow a pair, pass a bill extending all the current tax rates in the House, and let the Senate Democrats vote it down.

  • califernian||

    The problem is that TEAM RED wants to increase revenues as much as TEAM BLUE does. To "Grow a pair" implies they would have to stand up for something they want in the face of opposition but that's just not the case here.

  • ||

    Harsanyi: "Let's do something bad to stop being demonized for being right, and then hope the people we caved into won't find some new bad idea to demonize us for opposing!"

  • ||

    Sooner or later, enough will be enough.

    Really? Is that why FDR was a one-term president?

    FDR proved it's possible to socialize the hell out of the economy, crater it as a result of those hair-brained policies, and get reelected time and again.

  • RightNut||

    As did Obama.

  • califernian||

    as did G.W Bush

  • DGPFL||

    I agree!

    Don't underestimate the number of people who want big government to take care of them and their ability to blame their problems on people who are better off rather than on themselves or bad government policies.

  • ||

    The Republicans had a better line the other day about Bush being owed an apology.

    And take the take that if you can make the other side adopt your policies then you should declare victory. The Democrats are now defending most of the Bus tax cuts instead of calling for them to end.

    They could cut a bill doing NOTHING about the "fiscal cliff" other than extending those tax cuts for the middle class, pass it in the house, send it to the Senate, go home and declare victory. And let all of the rest of the taxes and cuts happen. And they would still be the winners.

    What are the Democrats going to do? Veto it because it doesn't resotre any spending? Their whole rhetorical game has been "tax cuts for the middle class". They aren't out there drumming up popular outrate over cuts to domestic spending. And they don't have time to start.

    Republicans seem to be masters at painting themselves into a corner, and yet they have a golden opportunity to end up with nothing other than a deficit reduction that contains only spending cuts and just a teeny little bit of tax increase on the top 2 brackets.

  • ||

    Er, take the LINE that if you can make the other side adopt your policies, you should declare victory.

    Just extend the tax cuts, except for those top two rates. And do NOTHING ELSE.

    That's ALL they have to do! Obama can't veto it. And you end up with all the spending cuts of the "fiscal cliff" and almost none of the tax increases.

    I mean, really Republicans should be joyous over the fact that the Democrats are spending all their time arguing for tax cuts , and just seize the opportunity to give them some.

    Jesus, wtf?

  • Ballz||

    Dems assume correctly that they can win with the idea that citizens are mostly like Igor in that joke about Russian peasants. (see below).
    ass rapery loves company

    joke:
    Ivan like other Russian peasants lived in the Russian wilderness, trying like his neighbors to eke out a living. But one day Gods blessings came in the form of an Angel who told Ivan he could have any wish he wanted. Ivan knew that a goat offered much benefit and so he wished for a goat. And thus it was that Ivan was the only peasant there that had a goat.

    Each morning his neighbors would see him milking his goat, getting cheese from the milk, and using the goat for other purposes.

    Many of Ivan's neighbors became jealous and as time went on their resentment grew worse.

    But as luck would have it his neighbor Igor was visited by the same angel and she told Igor that he too could have any wish he wanted.

    Igor thus wished that Ivan's goat would die.

  • Hyperion||

    Wow, you just nailed proglodyte mentality with a Russian joke. Pretty cool, bro.

    I've always said that leftists are not nearly as concerned with what they have as they are with what someone else has.

  • ant1sthenes||

    This is idiotic. It's not like they can't keep bringing up tax increases again and again.

  • ant1sthenes||

    If they're going to sell out, they should go big. Propose raising income taxes above 250k to 100%, and eliminating the loopholes that wealthy dems could use to hide their loot. Force the donkeys into using conservative rhetoric.

  • Hyperion||

    Can? You mean WILL, it won't end until they suck the life out of everything still producing anything valuable.

  • mgd||

    Every single Republican should abstain. Then they're not obstructing, they simply aren't abetting in the Democrats' destructive stupidity.

  • joey89924||

    Just from a strategic point of view, I don't see what the Republicans are going for.
    4N35

  • PapayaSF||

    ^ Incompetent spammer keeps Sugarfreeing his links.

  • Baal||

    If Leno did a 'Jaywalking' segment and asked the man on the street to define
    'marginal tax rate', you'd get a funny bit.

    That's why the D's will get away with blaming any and all bad things that
    happen on their watch on some boogey-man. It doesn't matter how the R's play
    the game.

  • jili5||

    Corker and Toomey?? Their plans are jokes. Why not mention Rand Paul's plan that actually cuts spending?

  • ||

    I can't believe it hasn't been said yet:

    No, fuck you, cut spending.

  • sohbet siteleri||

    As it is, the GOP is engaged in an unwinnable scrum with Barack Obama. Sohbet - Chat

  • sohbet siteleri||

    It's the Democrats' leverage in the debate.Sohbet - Sohbet Odaları

  • sohbet siteleri||

    There is no chance of a "balanced approach" on debt when you have no leverage.Sohbet Siteleri - Chat Siteleri

  • sohbet siteleri||

    A few years before, when he promised to cut the deficit in halfGüzel Sözler - Şarkı Sözleri

  • sohbet siteleri||

    It will require us to make difficult decisions and face challenges we've long neglected. Sohbet - Chat

  • sohbet siteleri||

    it's amazing how quickly they get quiet. Mynet Sohbet - Sohbet

  • sohbet siteleri||

    getting cheese from the milk, and using the goat for other purposes. Film izle - Dizi izle

  • sohbet siteleri||

    Get them to spit out a number and say. Sohbet - Sohbet Odaları

  • sohbet siteleri||

    and almost none of the tax increases. Oyun - Mirc indir

  • sohbet siteleri||

    And run on this in 2014 when we are in the next recession, caused by the tax hikes and by Obamacare. Rüya Tabirleri - Yemek Tarifleri

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement