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July 26, 2012 8:57 AM Senate Tax Action: Symbolic, But Full or Empty?

By Ed Kilgore

Some regular readers might have thought I was a bit cavalier about the Senate vote late yesterday on the Democratic and Republican alternatives for dealing with the Bush tax cuts, which I mentioned in the Day’s End post. Certainly some observers—i.e., the folks at TalkingPointsMemo—thought it was a really, really big deal.

It could be a glass-half-full, glass-half-empty judgment call. On the one hand, as Ezra Klein emphasizes, it did represent a rare non-filibustered up-or-down majority vote in the Senate on an issue that is central to the differences between the two parties on fiscal, economic, and even philosophical grounds. It will also likely compel a House vote on the two plans that will place House Republicans on the record as holding a tax cut for all Americans hostage to an additional tax cut exclusively available to the very highest earners.

But on the other hand, the vote wasn’t filibustered because Mitch McConnell was publicly asserting that the law if enacted would be unconstitutional as a revenue measure that did not originate in the House. And as we all should know by now, the Republican rap is that the issue is not who gets how much in tax cuts, but whether taxes should be “raised” on anybody at a time like this. In other words, Republicans and conservative media refuse to treat the expiration of the Bush tax cuts as “current policy,” just as they’ve refused to accept that reality from the moment the cuts were first enacted. So perceptions of this vote and of upcoming fights in Congress on the so-called “Taxmageddon” that would supposedly occur at year’s end without some sort of agreement will just be part of the usual partisan back-and-forth on the campaign trail and in Washington.

For my money, the most useful thing about the current debate is that Democrats have finally learned how to talk about marginal tax rates, and no longer buy into the claim that their position denies tax cuts to the wealthy while giving them to the non-wealthy. But again, anyone accepting the GOP argument that the failure to maintain all of the 2001 the tax cuts until the end of time represents a tax increase isn’t going to accept the logic at all.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • T2 on July 26, 2012 9:07 AM:

    the GOP just wants the rich to get richer. Nothing else figures into it. I will promise you this: if our national economy was skyrocketing out of recession - hitting on all cylinders, the stock market at 15,000 and rising, gasoline down to $1 a gallon, the GOP would still be saying "you can't raise taxes in a recession" and calling Obama a job killer for letting the Bush Tax Cuts expire. You see, these tax cuts were never meant to expire...the GOP, being their arrogant selves, figured they'd always be in power and would just keep extending them and even cutting further for the top of the earners. But like most of their plans, they haven't worked out like they planned. And now they'll just gum up the works however they can, waiting until they can find a way to do what they want.

  • c u n d gulag on July 26, 2012 10:07 AM:

    Hey, if for no other reason, it was fun to watch the Republicans squirm.

    And Jeez, who remembered Democrats could win a game 51-48?

    I thought the game was rigged so that they had to have 60 points to win, while the Republicans could win 51-50 by pulling in their 4th Estate guy off the White House bench to cast the winning vote.

    I almost feel sorry for Boner.
    Between this, and his Teahadist’s wanting to shut the government down on September 30th over funding ACA, he’s probably ruing the day his tanned orange hands let go of the bourbon and butt’s, and picked-up the Speakers gavel.
    ALMOST!

    Harry Reid, ya done good!
    Ya snookered Mitch, made him blink, and then herded just enough of the cats to make a majority.

    NOW WE WANT MORE OF THIS!

    You ARE planning more, aren't you Harry?

  • golack on July 26, 2012 10:32 AM:

    So why don't brand letting the Bush's cuts expire as a "Paying for our Wars" tax so we don't saddle our veteran's children with those costs?

  • bdop4 on July 26, 2012 11:25 AM:

    "on the other hand, the vote wasn’t filibustered because Mitch McConnell was publicly asserting that the law if enacted would be unconstitutional as a revenue measure that did not originate in the House."

    In an election year, this means NOTHING. If anything, it places the onus on the House for needlessly increasing taxes on 95% of the populace. Someone must have slipped acid into McConnell's coffee.

    "the Republican rap is that the issue is not who gets how much in tax cuts, but whether taxes should be “raised” on anybody at a time like this."

    Taxes should be raised on income over $250,000 because that income generally is not being reinserted back into the economy. Most, if not all, of income below $250,000 is being spent immediately. Businesses don't create jobs. Consumers with cash to buy things create jobs.

    Tax revenues are desperately needed to fix our infrastructure and pay the bills. If repubs were really concerned about reducing the deficit, they wouldn't be fighting this.

    "But again, anyone accepting the GOP argument that the failure to maintain all of the 2001 the tax cuts until the end of time represents a tax increase isn’t going to accept the logic at all."

    Those people are MORONS and are not within reach. Dems just have to make their case in the strongest terms possible and hope that there are enough honest, thinking voters out there who will get it.

  • Doug on July 26, 2012 7:53 PM:

    There's also the added bonus of Senate Republicans showing the entire nation just how concerned they really, really are about anyone who's NOT already obscenely rich. Not a tinker's d*mn!
    Think THAT'LL play well on the hustings?

  • manapp99 on July 27, 2012 11:56 AM:

    Look. Here's the deal. The tax increase voted on by the senate raises about 65-75 billion a year. The tax break for the rest of us costs about 400b a year. The deficit is about 1.5 trillion. So if your really serious about the roads and bridges and schools and such you should let them all expire. Then you have to be concerned about Social Security as we are hurting it's revenue with the temporary payroll tax break that the rich also get. So if your really concerned with increasing revenue you would advocate ending all the temporary breaks. But wait...economists are saying that letting them all expire would put us in a recession next year. So tax cuts do indeed help the economy. Even the ones for the rich. And everyone agrees this is true.