Political Animal


November 18, 2012 11:53 AM Elections have consequences — like tax increases on the wealthy?

By Kathleen Geier

Shellshocked by the election results, a number of Republican officials are doing the unthinkable, by seeming to move, albeit rhetorically and ever so slightly, to the center. They’re insulting their fellow citizens a little less and throwing around terms like care and compassion. As Michael Tomasky has noted:

Bobby Jindal kicked this off by saying in response to Romney, “We need to continue to show how our policies help every voter out there achieve the American dream.” Marco Rubio weighed in with the reassuring news flash that, in fact, he does not think there are “millions and millions of people in this country that don’t want to work.” Fellow Floridian Rick Scott—bless him, the Rick Scott who ripped off Medicare before he became governor and has tried to block Democrats from voting since occupying the office—says Republicans have to say that “we want to take care of every citizen of our state.” Scott Walker, Haley Barbour, Michael Steele, Susanna Martinez, and others have made similar remarks.

Some of those leaders have gone a bit further and suggested they might even be willing to put their money where their mouth is, by supporting tax increases on the wealthy. For example, here’s the governor purple-trending-blue state of Virginia, Gov. Bob McDonnell:

When asked if his party would now have to open to taxes on the highest earners, McDonnell said, “The people have spoken, I think we’re going to have to be [flexible] now. Elections do have consequences. The president campaigned on that.”

A number of Republicans in the House of Representatives also seem open to a tax increase. The Hill reports that Grover Norquist is losing influence, and fewer Republicans are signing on to his anti-tax pledge:

About a dozen newly elected House Republicans refused to sign the anti-tax pledge during their campaigns, and another handful of returning Republicans have disavowed their allegiance to the written commitment.

Even some of the biggest corporate jackasses like JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein have come out in favor of taxes for the wealthy, and, in Dimon’s case, in support of increasing the capital gains rate to 20%, which President Obama has proposed.

On the one hand, I think this is awesome. The election results seem to have put the fear of God into some of these people, and they know they have to compromise, or face the wrath of the people. On the other hand, I worry. Many of these same people are saying that would be open to higher taxes on the wealthy, but only if Democrats agree to significant spending cuts. For example, here’s former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour:

“‘If there’s enough savings, if there’s enough entitlement reform, if there’s enough certainty about tax reform in the next few years, I would,’ Barbour said when asked whether his party should consider softening its opposition to letting the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest expire.”

There are way too many ifs there for me to feel comfortable. I agree with Digby, who recently wrote, “I’m actually in favor of gridlock a good part of the time as I see our centrist political establishment doing the bidding of our plutocratic overlords.” Me too! The wingnuts were the only reason we narrowly averted a social safety net-shredding Grand Bargain last time. With the power of the right now significantly diminished, we may end up with an “entitlement” “reform” that will devastate elderly, disabled, and low-income Americans for decades to come.

Of course, another strong possibility is that the right is only temporarily amenable to compromise, and that within a few weeks or months they will come out swinging, more relentless and determined than ever to implement their extremist political agenda. That is, after all, what happened in 2008. The election briefly knocked the right off guard, and Republican leaders pledged to cooperate with the President. That lasted maybe a month, and before you knew it the Tea Party was up and running, charting a course of reactionary obstructionism and nearly torpedoing health care reform.

Ultimately, I believe we need to be extremely wary of these folks. They are zealots and hardcore ideologues who will do just about anything to enact their vision of what America should be. I actually admire their confidence, tenaciousness and unflappability, and I think those of us on the left could certainly use more of it. But should we really expect them to stop obstructing and begin productively cooperating with progressives? Hardly. I keep thinking of the ending of The Producers, when Zero Mostel tearfully addresses the court, promising: “And may I humbly add, your Honor, that we’ve learned our lesson and that we’ll never do it again.”

The very next scene is of Mostel and Gene Wilder in prison and working the exact same scam they just got convicted for.

Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. She blogs at Inequality Matters. Find her on Twitter: @Kathy_Gee


  • Joe Friday on November 18, 2012 1:27 PM:

    "Fellow Floridian Rick Scott—bless him, the Rick Scott who ripped off Medicare before he became governor and has tried to block Democrats from voting since occupying the office - says Republicans have to say that 'we want to take care of every citizen of our state'."


    The Republicans intend to SAY that they "want to take care of every citizen of our state", NOT actually DO IT.

  • biggerbox on November 18, 2012 1:27 PM:

    So far, I think the evidence only shows that some Republicans believe they need to sound more inclusive, not that they think they need to BE more inclusive. For them the issue is one of marketing - they are far from really believing that their policies and ideologies are what is costing them votes.

  • c u n d gulag on November 18, 2012 1:28 PM:

    Well, in all fairness, they need to put on a 'kinder and gentler' face.
    A lot more rubes, suckers, fools, and marks, fell for the grifter's “Compassionate Conservatism,” than when they are open in their hatred and disdain, like Romney & Ryan, and whole swaths of this years Congressional and Senate candidates.

    But the Republicans CANNOT change.
    Not without splintering off their hate-and-fear-filled base – who may form a 3rd Party – or make the Tea Party that party.

    So, their only option is to apply new coats of paint to their 19th Century philosophy, and sell it as some sort of a kinder, gentler, and “Greener” solution.

    I don’t mean to be overly simplistic, but there’s plenty of evidence that “Modern Conservatism” can be defined by who and what they hate and fear.

    If you agree – then you’re part of their hate and fear tribe, and are welcomed with open arms.

    If you object, or dare to even try to explain that there’s nothing there to hate and/or fear, then you are part of the enemy tribe.

    Conservatives are reactive creatures, not proactive ones.

    They wait to see what the position of the opposition (Liberals) take on something is, and then come to their position – whatever is diametrically opposed to that Liberal position.

    It’ll be a long, long time, before they can come around on women’s, gay, and civil and economic rights – if ever.

    Their solution in the next Presidential Election will be to have a brown or female member of their tribe on the ticket. In other words, paint over their philosophy in some other color besides “White Male.” Maybe the rubes, suckers, fools, and marks, will buy it – after all, Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann DID once lead in their primaries.

    And that’s about as far as they’ll go. Their base won’t let them.

    They'll keep trying to polish and paint the same hate-filled and frightened racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, and/or homophobic, turd.

    They are going to continue patch things up, trying to cover up their own demographic obsolescence.

  • Col Bat Guano on November 18, 2012 2:02 PM:

    Gotta agree with @c u n d gulag on this. The Republican party is an uneasy mixture of 1% plutocrats who provide the money and crazed fundamentalists who provide the footpower. If they go too far on increasing taxes then the money folks will probably just figure it's not worth their cash backing them. If they moderate on social issues then dispirit the fundies. They are on the horns of a dilemma and I couldn't be happier about it.

  • Mitt's Magic Underpants on November 18, 2012 2:28 PM:

    Good comments so far.
    The Republicans are currently just playing to the Villagers. They will screw the rest of us in the end, though.

  • RepubAnon on November 18, 2012 2:37 PM:

    As observed by other commenters above, the Republicans think that Romney lost, not because he lied, but because he didn't tell enough of the right kind of lies - and that he was caught on tape telling the truth in plain English.

    Shorter Republican Party: "We've got to do more to hide our proposed policies from the voters! (Oh, and keep more of them them away from the voting booths.)

  • exlibra on November 18, 2012 2:49 PM:

    Agree with Joe Friday, @1:27PM; all that Repubs (the top echelons, anyway) are interested in changing is the wrapping, not the contents of the package.

    Also agree with gulag, @1:28PM; their base won't let them do even that much, because they're not interested in changing anything, unless it's farther to the right. BTW, gulag: to your list of failed "repainted portraits" add Mia Love, who ran for Congress against Jim Matheson (D) in Utah. She's *both* female and black. And, although she's still not conceded the race, I don't think she's likely to prevail although, for a time, it looked like she was a shoo-in. And even though it's only the results of that particular race might still be in question.

    Some Repubs might take pride -- for a short while, anyway -- in parading their lack of prejudice. But, in the long run, those prejudices are so deeply ingrained, they're bound to reassert themselves in the comfy privacy of the voting booth.

  • CT on November 18, 2012 3:12 PM:

    Ugh. Any sort of "I agree with Digby" statement is enough for me to tune out. Far too precious, plus she's dedicated the last four-plus years to undermining President Obama. As progressives, we can do better.

  • schtick on November 18, 2012 3:14 PM:

    The bottom line for the teapubs is that there's another election they are gearing up for. They HAVE to put on appearances of being compassionate, but if people were paying attention to the likes of Aiken, Rush, Faux and Governor vaginal probe, they know it's a lie. That the teapubs failed to stand up wackos, because they are wackos, should show their true colors.

    interesting crapcha....theingut way......ya think?

  • rrk1 on November 18, 2012 4:09 PM:

    all that Repubs (the top echelons, anyway) are interested in changing is the wrapping, not the contents of the package.

    Truer words were never spoken.

    Junior Bush sold "compassionate conservatism" to the rubes, prudes, wackos, and brainless. We saw how that worked out. Let's see what the next version of the same bullshit looks like.

    The problem is voter turnout in the mid-terms is historically low, and those who vote are in the other tribe.

  • emjayay on November 18, 2012 4:14 PM:

    The reduction in capital gains taxes, supposedly to encourage investment, has only disorted the incentives in financial markets. When capital gains tax was the same as income tax I don't remember any big investment problem. Maybe a lack of speculation problem and a lack of derivatives etc. problem. And a lack of money for the federal government, causeing deficits problem.

    So any talk by actual billionaire plutocrats about raising it at all is an encouraging surprise. It's obvious that Obama can't wait to fold on raising top income tax rates, (even though it's a marginal rate, not on anyone's entire income, and the lowest it's ever been since Harding or something) maybe increased capital gains tax rates is the trade off.

    Anyone have a link to any economist discussing capital gains taxation rates?

  • Beahmont on November 19, 2012 7:22 AM:

    Interesting point Emjayay. And If I were Obama I'd take that trade off any day of the week if I could only get one or the other. Way more money in 5% of Capital Gains than in 4% of earned income.