Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 22, 2010

HOLD THE DAMN VOTES.... The debate over tax policy would appear to be tough for Dems to screw up. Republicans set their lower tax rates to expire at the end of the year -- President Obama and the public want to keep the lower rates for the middle class (price tag: about $3 trillion* to the debt over the next decade), while Republicans want that and breaks for the wealthy, disproportionately benefiting millionaires and billionaires (price tag: about $4 trillion to the debt over the next decade).

The smart move for Democrats, it seems, would be to hold a vote on Obama's proposed middle-class tax breaks -- before, you know, the election -- and dare Republicans to reject it. Greg Sargent reports today that the smart move isn't going over especially well.

A number of "moderate" House Dems have privately given Nancy Pelosi and other Dem leaders an earful in recent days, urging them not to hold a vote on whether to extend just the middle class tax cuts and not the high end ones, because it will leave them vulnerable to Republican ads, sources involved in the discussions tell me. [...]

Three dozen moderate Dems have signed a letter to Dem leaders demanding a vote on extending all the tax cuts. And behind the scenes, they are telling House Dem leaders in no uncertain terms that they don't want a vote focused on just the middle class ones, the sources say. The leadership aide says moderates are complaining that if they take the vote, "they'll be subject to a 30 second ad saying they raised taxes."

I hate to be the one who breaks this to Dems, but they'll probably have to face those ads anyway. It doesn't matter if it's wrong. Republicans may have rejected the tax cuts in the stimulus, and the tax cuts in the health care bill, and the tax cuts for small businesses, but they also have a tendency to make stuff up in attack ads. Giving the GOP what it wants rarely helps -- it tends to just encourage them to be even more irresponsible.

With that in mind, why not take the step that's better public policy and politically smart? Why not focus pre-election energies into cutting taxes for the middle class?

Indeed, why not make a really big deal about the fact that Democrats are fighting to pass middle-class tax cuts and have had to fight Republicans tooth and nail to make it happen?

More specifically, like Jon Chait, I continue to think the best of all strategies would be to hold two votes: one for the lower middle-class rates and one for breaks for the top 2%. If Dems are panicky, they can vote for both. If Republicans hold them hostage, that becomes the basis for a major campaign issue.

If push comes to shove, and both pass, the president could even veto the latter and explain we can't afford more breaks for millionaires.

All Dems have to do is Hold. The. Damn. Votes.

Postscript: It's worth emphasizing that while many Dems waver, a few are stepping up to show some progressive leadership. Alexi Giannoulias, the Democratic Senate hopeful in Illinois, is launching a new site called 700 Billion Reasons, as part of an effort to promote Obama's tax-cut policy. In a statement, Giannoulias said, "I'm launching a new advocacy site today, 700BillionReasons.com, to help voters across the country share their reasons about why we shouldn't doll out a $700 billion tax cut to a sliver of the wealthiest Americans when we could use that revenue to invest instead in the middle class or pay down our debt."

* fixed

Steve Benen 3:30 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (41)

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I know you must feel like a broken record, Steve, but please keep sounding out on this issue.

Failure to hold the votes on this would be a colossally stupid mistake.

Posted by: TR on September 22, 2010 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

We got it with PASS.THE. DAMN.BILL time to motivate the masses , get out the pitchforks and torches***** Hold. The. Damn. Votes.

Posted by: john R on September 22, 2010 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

I have great sympathy for people suffering from Battered Spouse Syndrome.

Members of Congress, with Battered Democrat Syndrome, on the other hand, just makes me want to vomit.

The stubborn persistance of the belief that they have it within their power to keep Republicans from saying mean things about them in commercials by doing or not doing things that Republicans say are bad is just plain pathological. The people who believe it either need to get some damn therepy or get the hell out of Congress.

Posted by: Another Steve on September 22, 2010 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

Current Replicant leadership promoted and passed the upcoming Bush tax increases; Obama is the one offering yet another tax cut for what's left of the middle class.

That's for starters.

And the quarter-billionaires? They ALSO get Obama Tax Cuts. The question is, who shd get Bigger tax cuts-- the super rich? Or everyone else?

Because the proposed Obama Tax Cuts only apply to amounts Under a quarter million. Anything over that is a Bush tax hike.

Posted by: Tomm on September 22, 2010 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

Omg. The fact that this is even being debated confirms my feeling of doom.

Sweet FSM.

Posted by: Trinity on September 22, 2010 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

"Another Steve" -- You are right on. And it's not just another example of Dims invertebrates, either. If they are so stupid as to think you can reason w/ these talibangelical regressives, they need to be replaced w/ Real Dems asap.

Apparently that means another couple of years. Too bad we don't have another two years to waste.

Posted by: Tomm on September 22, 2010 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

Jesus. More hand wringing. Dems, grow a pair and take the initiative away from the R's!

God almighty, this country is so fucked with this kind of leadership.

Posted by: jcricket on September 22, 2010 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

Holy SH*T, can most Democrats have failed POLITICS 101?!?!?!?
Jesus, how much more basic can it be to make your own party look good in front of the majority of voters and AT THE SAME TIME, make your opponent LOOK BAD?
I swear. I give up. If we can't figure this out, we totally deserve to lose.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on September 22, 2010 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

What you've said Steve is correct. The Repubs will make ridiculous ads no matter what.

This is one time when Nancy just has to tell these 3 dozen 'moderate' dems to go fuck themselves. Let's see, we can 'protect' 3 dozen representatives (who don't represent Democratic principles or priorities) or we can shit can all the rest of them.

I'd say it's an easy choice. Grow a pair Nancy! Make 'em brass.

Posted by: kindness on September 22, 2010 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

Like always, the Democrats do the Republican's job for them.

Posted by: Mitch on September 22, 2010 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

My theory: because of Citizens United, the Dems think that if they vote with the wealthy, they will receive some of the corporate funding that seems to be going almost exclusively to Rs. Hopefully, they have it in writing and on video, notarized.
I still don't know why lying to the public doesn't carry some sort of legal consequences. If an ad is factually false, isn't there recourse through the courts? Since the media won't report it or question it, let the so-called Justice System take it on. Just don't let it get to the Supremes, where it will be dismissed as irrelevant.

Posted by: st john on September 22, 2010 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

A campaign speech for the craven:

I had a chance last month to stand up for you folks and do the right thing, but I didn't do that, because I thought that liars might say mean things about me.

Milquetoast for Congress!

Bumper sticker version:

I'd try but they'd lie!

Posted by: tamiasmin on September 22, 2010 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

First of all, let's not call them "moderates."

Posted by: SaintZak on September 22, 2010 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

Is anyone else getting the feeling that these squishy Dems are just looking for an excuse to avoid raising their own taxes? Or are they just looking out for their wealthy friends?

Posted by: smedley on September 22, 2010 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

Every I time I read a blog post like this my blood pressure goes up. I'm sick of these impotent losers.

Fuck it, let the Republicans take over again. It serves us right.

Posted by: kc on September 22, 2010 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK


Posted by: Brian on September 22, 2010 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

If one of our "troops" behaved in this way, they would be court martialed for cowardice and derelection of duty.
When will one of the brave ones stand on the floor of Congress and call them out for being a coward. We have to have Lady Gaga do it, then we ridicule her. She has more balls/courage (I really dislike the sexualization of courage, but that seems to be the way it is, for now) than most in either house.

Posted by: st john on September 22, 2010 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

The sad fact is, the people who give the most money to political candidates are the ones who make over $250K. Optics be damned. Republicans and Blue Dogs aren't about to alienate those big fat cash cows because that would risk their reelection, far more important to them than, um, governing. We don't have a democracy any more. Thanks to the oceans of money rolling through Washington, we have a plutocracy, where money (and increasingly money alone)determines public policy. Citizens United just put the cherry on top. Thanks, Supremes! Best work since Bush v. Gore!

Posted by: dalloway on September 22, 2010 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

Giannoulias said, "I'm launching a new advocacy site today, 700BillionReasons.com, to help voters across the country share their reasons about why we shouldn't doll out a $700 billion tax cut to a sliver of the wealthiest Americans...

This is a very good move by Giannoulias. He's getting hammered in Illinois by a Kirk ad because G proposed raising state taxes. He needs to hit back on this. (and Illinois does need to raise taxes.)

Posted by: Tim H on September 22, 2010 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

I'm guessing it's mostly Blue Dogs carrying Republicon water. While I realize there are advantages to being in the majority, is there a point where having what amounts to several dozen opposition members in your own caucus counterproductive?

Would it be better to let them either join the Rethugs or try to go independent? Just wondering...

Posted by: MichaelF on September 22, 2010 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

[...] help voters across the country share their reasons about why we shouldn't doll out a $700 billion tax cut [...] -- from the 700 Billion Reasons website, by Alexi Giannoulias

Shouldn't someone in his position know the difference between "doll" and "dole"?

Vis the vote/votes. Either hold two votes -- for middle class extension only first and for the mega-rich after -- or don't hold any. Let everyone know that all the breaks will expire, as scheduled; they're *Bush's* tax cuts, he's gone and the tax cuts ought to be gone with him. Then, immediately, propose *Obama's* tax cuts, for the middle class only.

Posted by: exlibra on September 22, 2010 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

Hey! Stupid blue dog dems. The best defense is a good offense...

Hold. The. Damn. Votes.

Posted by: kanopsis on September 22, 2010 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

Yet another example why I gave up my Democratic party membership in late 1974 - Democrats many times can't find themselves out of a wet paperbag!

After the harrowing Watergate scandal, "reform" Democrats among the Congressional turnover couldn't get it together to effectively deal with any of the post Nixon skeletons lingering in our body-politik. As a result, Reagan's forces were able to reconstitue themselve out of the laughing stockade, and into our mainstream political arena.

The 2010 version of the Democratic party is still suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, or some other disorder that would allow them to time and again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on September 22, 2010 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

Here's another senatorial hopeful in favour of letting the super-rich pay their own way:

Posted by: exlibra on September 22, 2010 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

Easy call. Two votes. First would make middle class cuts even STEEPER for next two years then bring them up to where they are today. Second would keep wealth cuts at current levels. Let Congress pass both measures separately. Let Obama pass the one for the middle class and veto the one for the wealthiest. Everybody wins.

Posted by: Mark in Philly on September 22, 2010 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

Someone should clue Giannoulias to the new standard deceptions.

He is still talking about "700 billion reasons." According to the new deceptions (see Steve's construction), we libs have begun to pretend that the difference between the two tax proposals is really $2 trillion. This makes us seem better!

When will our side learn that we're all supposed to repeat the official deceptions? Or is there some other explanation for this new party line?

(It seems to have started in the Post, with Lori Montgomery quoting unnamed Democrats.)

Posted by: bob somerby on September 22, 2010 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

"Indeed, why not make a really big deal about the fact that Democrats are fighting to pass middle-class tax cuts and have had to fight Republicans tooth and nail to make it happen?"

Because we're stupid, that's why not!

Yours very crankily,
The New York Crank

Posted by: The New York Crank on September 22, 2010 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

It's already happening so why the Blue Dogs think the Rs will give them a break is beyond me. Here's an ad running locally targeting Harry Mitchell for AZ-05: http://60plus.org/issues/2010_fight/az-05/ and there's another one just like targeting Ann Kirkpatrick for AZ-01. They are slurred with "Washington Liberals". They could vote like Louie Gohmert and they'd still be attack as "Washington Liberals" because they have a D by their names. I wish they would figure that out.

Posted by: gaardvark on September 22, 2010 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

Why not let them expire? Note that Bush designed them to expire. Instead of extending them, let's just pass some new tax cuts, targeted more appropriately. Let the GOP complain that they are giving to much of a break to the little guy.

Posted by: gex on September 22, 2010 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

It's like J Edgar Hoover saying in the fifties that there was no such thing as organized crime and blocking FBI investigations.

I wonder what's in the picture?

Posted by: Bob M on September 22, 2010 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

Hold. The. Damn. Votes.

Posted by: Jake on September 22, 2010 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

Ladies and gentlemen exhibit A in why Democrats are consistently labeled as 'weak', 'soft' and 'pathetic'. They refuse to fight. Even for stuff they supposedly believe in.

And this is alos why the base refuses to get 'excited'. Why fight for a person who clearly has zero interest in fighting for you because they are afraid of being called a bad name by Republicans.

Posted by: thorin-1 on September 22, 2010 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK

Those "moderate Democrats", such a weaselly, appeasing, spineless bunch ... They should realize as Steve suggests that they're going to get hit with a garbage cloud anyway so go ahead and do what's right and what appeals to most voters. Since the Elizabeth Warren "appointment" was a kind of fizzle and we don't really know what's she's up to, give the base (and really, most people) something more or less solid to be proud of you for! And even if they held the vote to extend all the cuts, how then are those "moderate" slugs going to vote, to do just that? What's the point of even having such as that?

Posted by: neil b on September 22, 2010 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

If we want to be creative about this, consider instead not just letting or stopping the existing code expirations. Try revising the structure to ramp up capital gains taxes, financial transactions, and maybe push the top rate bracket to 1M from 250k (but only for such concessions!) It might go over well with a section of 0.25-1M earners but still bring in needed revenue. (Also, more fair to earned income v. speculation.)

Posted by: neil b on September 22, 2010 at 5:34 PM | PERMALINK

Jay Inslee was out talking about this today as well in a liveblog on DailyKos. He's advocating strongly for holding the line:

"Reinstating the Bush tax levels for income over $250,000 is bad policy. It is time we start saying so."


Posted by: Chase M on September 22, 2010 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK

What I would like to see the Senate do is hold the damn vote on DADT. The vote yesterday was three votes short, and at least four of the no votes swear up and down they'd have voted yes if Reid was willing to compromise on how amendments were offered. Sounds childish? They could be lying? Either way Reid does not seem to be interested in spending any time on this, and the LGBT orgs are saying they don't expect a vote until after the election (!). So are the dems actually going to run like cowards from a winnable vote on DADT so that they can set up a vote on tax cuts to prove they don't run like cowards from things?

Posted by: mcc on September 22, 2010 at 6:43 PM | PERMALINK

The smart thing to do is nothing. Let all the tax cuts expire. That way the Republicans can't screw things up.

No voting means not losing.

Every time the spineless Dims try to get cute they screw up and create really ugly made from from spare parts Frankenstein legislation.

Just let the damn things expire.

And when the Repugs whine remind them it was their idea to have them expire during the fall of 2010.

Posted by: Marnie on September 22, 2010 at 8:13 PM | PERMALINK

mcc, Collins, Snow and Brown would STILL vote against DADT. They gave Sen. Reid's refusal to permit Republicans to offer an unlimited number of amendments to the Defense Authorization as their reason. Since bringing DADT to the floor by itself still wouldn't allow Republicans to offer unlimited amendments to the Authorization, they'd just vote against it.
It'll all be Sen. Reid's fault, of course...

Posted by: Doug on September 22, 2010 at 8:53 PM | PERMALINK

And you tell me it's important that I vote?
And that I vote for these imbeciles, cowards, pissants, punks, pukes, and shitforbrains moral miscreants?
Because not voting for them will make us worse off?

I'm sorry, but I'm just not seeing that.
Supporting bad behavior never generates anything but more bad behavior.
And I am absolutely sick to death of being told that I somehow owe my support to people and parties that give no support whatsoever to me, or to the vast majority of Americans who are much more like me than the people they're obviously really working for, or to what is obviously right for our country and our world.
Fuck 'em.

Posted by: smartalek on September 23, 2010 at 4:46 AM | PERMALINK

For me, all of this spineless Democratic cowardice was foreordained when Barack Obama and Senate Democratic "leadership" refused to take any meaningful steps to punish Joe Lieberman for his open and active support for the GOP nominee. We were all advised that it was imprudent to kick Joe out of the Dem caucus because we needed his vote to maintain the magic 60-vote threshold so that we can pass Obama's bold legislative initiatives. Those of us who were incredulous that Obama's "brain trust" actually believed that Holy Joe would do anything other than kick the President in the nuts at every opportunity—and that this refusal to take action signified a complete lack of self-confidence and real belief in what they said they stood for—have unfortunately been vindicated.

I'll be voting for Democrats in November, but it's with no belief whatsoever that even if they manage to keep hold of Congress that Obama & Company have any clue about the game of politics.

Posted by: bluestatedon on September 23, 2010 at 7:44 AM | PERMALINK

The stubborn persistance of the belief that they have it within their power to keep Republicans from saying mean things about them in commercials by doing or not doing things that Republicans say are bad is just plain pathological.


It's even worse, because not only are the Republicans going to say mean things anyway, they'll have done so after maniupulating Democrats to take positions against their own agenda. They lose votes on the one side due to the Republican attacks -- which come anyway -- and by turning off their own voters via their abject cowardice.

It's baffling.

Posted by: Gregory on September 23, 2010 at 8:39 AM | PERMALINK



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