Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 2, 2010

THE ACCIDENTAL TRUTH ON TAX RATES.... Sen. Chuck Schumer's (D-N.Y.) compromise proposal on tax policy -- everyone making less than $1 million gets a tax cut, millionaires and billionaires go back to Clinton-era tax rates -- would give Republicans 90% of the tax package they want. But the GOP still won't accept it, because the party's obvious goal to protect the very wealthy, literally at all costs.

But during a floor debate yesterday, there was an interesting exchange. Schumer made his case for his compromise -- the third major Democratic compromise proposal on taxes -- and urged Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) to concede it's a good idea. The Republican refused, but the conservative Tennessean made an observation that's worth repeating.

"As I was listening to [Schumer], I was reminded that most of the people whose taxes he is trying to raise live in New York," Alexander said. "I mean they're not in Tennessee, we're a relatively low income state. So I admire him for his courage ... to be so specific that we're gonna raise taxes on just a small number of people, most of whom live on Wall Street in New York."

There's certainly some truth to that. There are, in fact, a lot of millionaires in and around Manhattan, and fewer in Tennessee. Schumer's plan would still guarantee tax cuts for everyone, but would raise the top rate on Wall Street's wealthiest workers, who happen to be his constituents.

The problem, of course, is that Alexander was undermining his own party's misleading talking points. To hear his Republican Party tell it, allowing top rates to go up on millionaires would be awful for small businesses and those poor mom-and-pop stores with seven-figure incomes.

Which is what makes Alexander's accidental accuracy so refreshing. Schumer's plan would, as the GOP senator acknowledge, "raise taxes on just a small number of people, most of whom live on Wall Street."

With that in mind, if that's true -- and it is -- why are Alexander and his Republican colleagues fighting so hard for this "small number of people," holding the chamber and middle-class tax cuts hostage until these Wall Street folks get a large tax break they don't need?

Steve Benen 1:40 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (19)

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Let the tax cuts expire, but characterize it as the result of republican intransigence, and use the savings to invest in more stimulative policies like unemployment insurance, infrastructure, etc.

Unfortunately, that would take some vision, courage, and resolve from Obama and the Dems...

Posted by: Holmes on December 2, 2010 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

Steve,

Why, you ask?

because, as you have documented time after time here in your blog, they can!

if the Dems don't ever grow a spine and stand in front of the media with the message that 1 out of every 100 people would see a modest raise in their taxes, and everyone, yes everyone, keeps the cut under $250K then they'll continue to lose votes & support

easy as that!

Posted by: otter61 on December 2, 2010 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

Are you seriously telling me that DNC or OFA or MoveOn can't turn Alexander's floor speech footage into a potent 30-second spot within 24 hours and get it on air?

Really?

As ex-Gov. Strickland said, if we can't sell our position on this issue, we probably should just fold up our tent.

Posted by: zeitgeist on December 2, 2010 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

If the voters of Tennessee, who Sen. Alexander represents, would not be adversely affected, then what's his objection? Perhaps the voters of Tennessee would be interested to know that he cares more about New York millionaires than he does about them.

Posted by: My Alter Ego on December 2, 2010 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

Of course the Republicans won't accept this. Why should they?

The Dems will be hopeless at telling this story to the American people, so there is no cost to resisting Dem initiatives.

When will Dems learn that politics is not a game called 'Rebuttal'?

Posted by: lark on December 2, 2010 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

So, Alexander is fighting for a few people in New York. What about the poor in his own state? Which state does he represent? Will Wall Street secede from the Union?

Posted by: Doug on December 2, 2010 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

. . . why are Alexander and his Republican colleagues fighting so hard for this "small number of people," holding the chamber and middle-class tax cuts hostage until these Wall Street folks get a large tax break they don't need?

One word:

Kickbacks

Posted by: SteveT on December 2, 2010 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

The hatred of Obama controls everything they do. It is obvious that they, from the outset of his term, were going to do whatever was necessary to make him FAIL. And unfortunately Obama and most of the Dems in Congress wimped out. I truly believe that if the Dems would have said to the Repugs back in Jan. 2008, "We're going to give you a couple of months to get with the program and if you don't-- get the fuck out of the way because this is the direction we are going". If the Repugs had all of the power in 2008 that is exactly what they would have said to the Dems. The disappointment and anger I feel now about our country I have never felt before. Even during the Vietnam era and Watergate I did not feel as much despair about our country as I do now.

Posted by: Chris on December 2, 2010 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

It is pretty clear the Dems don't have the votes in the Senate for just the $250,000 and below tax cuts, thanks to people like Sen. Nelson. So, why not just hold a vote, knowing the republicans will filibuster, and let them expire? All the while explain the situation to the American people, juxtaposing the republicans fighting for millionaires and billionaire with the millions struggling to make ends meat and stay in their homes.

It is an easy sell for anyone other than a political coward and/or imbecile.

I wish Obama would wake the f up and get in the game. We need leadership, not sound bites at a photo-op.

Posted by: Holems on December 2, 2010 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

I am 55 years old. This is the year I finally, can no longer call myself a Democrat. The one thing I can't stand above everything else, even out and out evil, is stupidity. And these fuckers are just incomprehensibly stupid. There is no where else to go. The Republicans are evil and stupid in their own way. But at least they are exercising some political skill.

I think the most depressing thing about the last two years is it has reinforced the notion that there is a power structure in place, probably has been in place for sometime that is not answerable to our elected officials. That the political stuff is just theatre. I think that this must have been what it was like when the Roman Republic slid into Empire. For those living at the time, there was no clear demarcation as the historians today paint it. It was imperceptable.

The Republic is gone I fear. We just don't realize it yet and probably won't for a very long time because of all the sophisticated propaganda tools out there.

Posted by: sw on December 2, 2010 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

"This thing is rigged"

Michael Bennet

Posted by: SW on December 2, 2010 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

Let's see, lowest rate of college education per voter...

1. West Va.
2. Arkansas
3. Kentucky
4. Mississippi
5. Alabama
6. Nevada
7. Indiana
8. Lamar Land
9. Louisiana
10. South Carolina


Posted by: beejeez on December 2, 2010 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

If the Democrats cave in to the radical extremist republicans/Fascists by extending the tax cuts for the rich and very rich, or by not letting the tax cuts on them expire, then the Democrat party is finished.

You and I know that the traditional Republican party is dead, and the death of the Democratic party may be imminent.

If so, the Aggressive Progressives must take the reins and rebuild a truly Democratic party, which only they can do.

Posted by: ghostcommander on December 2, 2010 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

one would also think Lamar Alexander would be familiar with Brentwood, Tennessee and all the idle rich Music Industry douchebags in Nashville...
eat the rich!

Posted by: andyvillager on December 2, 2010 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

Why not let all of the Bush tax cuts expire at years' end as the law stipulates? Tell the nation the Republicans have held the nation's middle class hostage and the unemployed to rescue their billionaire donors and we don't negotiate with domestic terrorists. That would put $4 trillion back into the treasury over the next ten years, eliminate most of the current political arguments regarding what to cut in order to reduce the deficit, and essentially end Simpson/Bowles 15 minute sideshow posing as "hard nosed reality". All of the tax cuts were made with borrowed money, they were bad fiscal policy from the Bush Administration, and they are the largest structural underpining of the national debt. Let them all expire on 1/1/11.

Posted by: max on December 2, 2010 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

Wall Streeters won't buy as many Moon Pies and RC colas in Tennessee stores if they lose their tax breaks!

Posted by: kc on December 2, 2010 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

After spending decades demonizing New York, it's nice to see a Republican offer some sympathy for the city.

Posted by: fry1laurie on December 2, 2010 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

It's probably worth pointing out that under either the Obama tax proposal or the Schumer "compromise" proposal, even millionaires will be getting to keep some of the tax cuts. The tax rates are applied to marginal income; under Schumer's plan, for example, even millionaires would keep that cut on their first million of income. It's only on the dollars they earn in excess of $1 million that the tax rate will go up. So someone earning $1,000,001 will pay maybe an extra couple of pennies in tax.

Posted by: bucky on December 2, 2010 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

I'm with SW on this. The uber-rich and their shills in the Republican Party and Fox News are running a game of three card monty.

Unfortunately, it's in the genetic code of at least half the population of this country to think they can win.

Look it's simple, if you're not part of the Con then you're a Mark. What's the difference between Bernie Madoff and the Republican Party?

Posted by: DK on December 2, 2010 at 9:01 PM | PERMALINK
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