Since the election last November, I’ve had some time to think. About 2 months worth of time actually. During my reflection Pres. Obama compromised with Republicans to pass a bill on the Bush tax cuts. I’ve written before that I think he did the right think, but there is one thing about it that I don’t understand. That’s the number two.The deal extended the tax cuts for two years. That means right in the middle of the presidential campaign of 2012 this is going to be an issue. As far as I can tell it’s a losing move for Democrats. The unfortunate truth for Democrats is that lower taxes always sound better.
We live in a time of huge budget deficits. If we look at the reality of the situation two things almost certainly need to happen. We need to cut the amount of money we spend, and we need to raise taxes. The Tea Party movement is built upon fiscal responsibility. at least in theory. The rhetoric you hear from them doesn’t support that, however. What we heard in the last election was that taxes are too high, and government spending was out of control. What is most interesting about that argument is that taxes are exactly what they have been for 10 years, and spending (along with the deficit) has been growing that entire time. Where was the outcry then? Why weren’t Tea Partiers angry in the last year of Pres. Bush’s administration when the budget deficit went over a trillion dollars for the first time? The truth is that the Tea Party cares little for fiscal responsibility and more for the government not taxing them at all. They don’t consider the consequences of that, however. It is easy to say the government should take less of your money, but not so easy to deal with the reality of what will happen if they don’t. It’s easy to want your paycheck to be bigger, but difficult to deal with the fact that you can’t survive in retirement and old age because Social Security and Medicare are not funded. The Tea Party is existing in a world that will never come to reality, because it is impossible. They want the services that the government provides, but don’t want to pay for them.
Unfortunately for Democrats it is easy to buy the Tea Party’s vote. All you have to do is follow the formula that Republican’s used in the last election. Promise lower taxes, say the problem is just government spending. If you simplify the argument to the point that it doesn’t make any real sense, it will probably work. Kevin Yoder, who is the new congressman for the Kansas 3rd district, ran a campaign commercial in the election where he said, ” Washington taxes too much, borrows too much, and spends too much.” He never mentioned what would happen if they did less of any of those things. That wasn’t important. What was important was saying Congress is wasting money. He wouldn’t want to mention that they were wasting money on things like helping the poor, old or disabled. He wouldn’t want to mention that we spend billions on military programs that go nowhere, only to further the most technologically advanced military in the world unnecessarily. He wouldn’t want to propose real solutions, because real solutions almost always have side effects that some people don’t like.
The real problem with the tax deal is that it makes it more difficult for Obama to be re-elected. It they had extended the cuts for 1 or 3 years, it would be an entirely different situation. Democrats have little to gain from a tax argument in an election. Any real fiscal conservative would say that when the time comes we need to eliminate the Bush tax cuts. I’ve heard a few say just that, but in an election year logic takes a back seat to winning. In a year where the future of not only Congress, but the White House, hangs in the balance, we can expect a lot of politics, and little of sensable policy.