A $700 Billion Lie

Now that the Republicans control the House of Representatives and have enough votes in the Senate to block any legislation they oppose, President Obama and his advisors are scrambling to find some position consistent with their presidential campaign pledge to raise taxes on those individuals earning $200,000 per year (or couples earning $250,000) to the rates paid under President Reagan while continuing the Bush tax cuts for everyone earning less.

Starting with John McCain two years ago, the Republicans have been spouting two patently false claims about this plan, behind which they hide their continuous support of the wealthiest Americans at the expense of the rest of the nation.  Failing to increase taxes on this upper income group will increase the national debt by $700 billion over the next ten years, which doesn’t seem to bother Republicans as they simultaneously decry this growing debt.

First, they say that increasing taxes during a recession is economically unsound.  While theoretically true, a relatively modest increase in taxes only on the wealthiest Americans will have little to no impact on their consumer spending patterns and will not slow economic and employment growth. And continuing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy certainly won’t help stimulate much growth, since this group is least likely to spend any more than they already do on the goods and services that can meaningfully increase our gross domestic product and provide more jobs.

Second, Republicans from McCain to McConnell lose no chance to advance the outright lie that increasing the tax rate for the $200,000/$250,000 bracket will hurt large numbers of people who run small businesses and will thus prevent employment growth.  Really?  Do you know what percentage of people who declared on their last tax returns any earnings or losses from businesses they ran actually fall in the $200,000/$250,000 bracket?  Well, it’s 2%!  And the vast majority of this 2% report business income of less than $500,000 which would result in a tax increase of about $700. How many people do you think they will hire with that extra $700?  And even that tiny 2% is made up of very few real small business owners who actually hire people.  They are primarily people like me and most everyone else who has any income other than their salaries, pensions, interest and dividends, and who never hire anyone.  The number of jobs that would be lost as a result of increased taxes on me and the rest of this bracket wouldn’t fill a golf cart.

There is no sound economic reason for the wealthiest Americans not to pay taxes at the rate their greatest hero, Ronald Reagan, endorsed.  That is exactly what President Obama is asking of them, hardly a great sacrifice when considering the financial plight of too much of the rest of America.  The only sacrifices Republicans advocate are to cut the programs that benefit the middle and lower income people of this country.  A ten-year, $700 billion Republican gift to the wealthy in today’s economy is a travesty matched only by the moral and ethical spinelessness of the Democrats.  They are now infected by fright and led by a man who stunned the world to become America’s first black president, offering some belief that sanity and justice might once again become our governing policies, but today disappoints the world by having allowed intellectual arrogance to overcome judgment and political timidity to destroy commitment.

I believe that liberals who expected Barack Obama to simply overturn eight years of Cheney/Rove governance, which brought America to the brink of moral and economic insolvency, are as ridiculously simplistic as the Tea Party anarchists.  But I did expect leadership that went beyond a lecture, and a president who not only took off his jacket and rolled up his sleeves for photo-ops but also then jumped into the fray and fought for what he believed.   Even if Mr. Obama cannot as a practical matter stop the Republicans on this tax issue, he must not go quietly into the night of a craven compromise.  This issue is fundamental to defining the differences between the parties.  Republicans must be held accountable for this blatant giveaway to the wealthy as a typical and indefensible attack on fairness and justice for the rest of America.

When David Axelrod, one of Mr. Obama’s chief advisors, now tells us that we must “take the world as we find it,” the audacity of hope has become the cowardice of fear.  Republicans will never forgive George W. Bush for giving us Barack Obama.  I will not forgive Mr. Obama if he continues to give us back the Republicans.