Political Animal


July 06, 2011 2:25 PM Seeking ‘a more meaningful contribution’ from the rich

By Steve Benen

In theory, it made sense for the Senate to forgo its scheduled week-long recess. There’s a lot to do, and some press deadlines. I was glad to see Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) bring his colleagues back.

But in practice, the Senate is still the Senate.

This week, members will consider a non-binding measure that simply expresses a basic opinion: millionaires and billionaires should “make a more meaningful contribution to the deficit-reduction effort.” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) of Alabama said asking for broad sacrifice is “rather pathetic.” Policymakers are supposed to deal with the debt Republicans created, but do so only in a way that shields the wealthiest of the wealthy.

Keep in mind, the vote is purely conceptual — it wouldn’t actually impose any sacrifices on rich people; it only gets senators on the record as to whether such sacrifices would be a good idea.

Greg Sargent explained today, “That this vote is happening at all perfectly captures just how surreal this debate has become.”

The notion that the wealthy should sacrifice anything at all in the way of higher taxes or revenues is now such a nonstarter that Dems are finding themselves forced to hold a vote on the general concept that the rich should contribute something “meaningful” to deficit reduction.

This is insane.

Dems are hoping this move puts Republicans on the spot when the resolution is debated on the floor, and it will certainly be interesting to see how Republicans vote on it and how they defend it if they vote No.

I don’t know if the Dem strategy will work, but I do know that this vote reveals that this debate ran off the rails a long time ago.

Agreed. Republicans will probably feel a slight awkwardness voting against the very idea of wealthy sacrifices, or maybe they’ll back the measure and Dems can say, “See? Even the GOP wants millionaires and billionaires to make a more meaningful contribution to the deficit-reduction effort.”

But either way, think about where this process has gone. For three decades, bipartisan debt-reduction plans have been contentious, but sane — Republicans would call for less spending, Democrats would call for additional revenue, and the parties would work out an agreement over the ratio.

In 2011, we have Republicans demanding 100% of what they want or they’ll crash the economy on purpose, and Dems have been reduced to asking GOP senators to agree that the wealthy should give up something when dealing with the debt Republicans built up in the first place.

What a farce.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • Goldilocks on July 06, 2011 2:36 PM:

    Filibuster! Come on, lackeys. You know the drill. Chop! Chop!

  • j on July 06, 2011 2:37 PM:

    The poor and middle class have already lost jobs, savings, health care etc also many have lost sons and daughters fighting in Bush's wars. Have not heard of many rich kids coming home from the war in caskets. Now the republicans want these same people to pay off our country's debt - which includes the total cost of the wars.

  • mr. irony on July 06, 2011 2:37 PM:

    GOP 2011: We Are Broke...Ask A Millionaire !

  • tomb on July 06, 2011 2:39 PM:

    I have often see charts that show wealth disparities. But I have never seen a chart that shows where taxes come from. In other words, if the top 10 percent of the nation own 80 percent of the nation's wealth, I think they should pay 80 percent of the taxes. I'm guessing it's not quite that.

  • Josef K on July 06, 2011 2:43 PM:

    Greg Sargent nailed it in just three words:

    "This is insane."

    I'm left to wonder when exactly we, as a country, went off the rails and started overdosing on crazy pills? As far back as Reagan getting away with Iran-Contra? Or further back than that?

  • Anonymous on July 06, 2011 2:58 PM:

  • Bless on July 06, 2011 3:00 PM:

    Seeing as they were fiduciarily irresponsible to begin with, we're going to not only let the Bush era tax cuts expire, we're going to outright raise income taxes on amounts made over a million. The real income of top earners has only gone up over the last decades. Seeing how the real income of poor and middle class, conversely, has only been going down over this same time period, we're going to not only preserve the Bush era tax rates for households under half a million, we'll cut it in half.

    The Republicans have painted themselves into a corner, wake up and do the right thing.

  • xando foote on July 06, 2011 3:02 PM:

    Mr. Obama has clearly stated that he will not support any further extension of the diasterous Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest. This will be a central theme in his campaign for reelection and, as two thirds of voters agree with him on this issue, it should be a major factor in 2012.

  • June on July 06, 2011 3:05 PM:

    The wealthy will not have to stop booking first-class seats or a fine dining experience if their taxes go up 4.6%, so "sacrifice" is hardly the word.

  • Live Free or Die on July 06, 2011 3:10 PM:

    This is Obama's fault. How is it that the Dem have 75% of the combined executive/legislative branches, yet are begging the GOP to vote for a deal that is slanted 86%/14% toward the GOP? Why are Dems the only party obsessed with bipartisanship? Dems should have walked away from the beginning. Obama should tell Bohner to blow him, then hold a press conference informing Americans that the Republicans are about to blow up the economy and that he will prevent that from happening via his executive powers. By the time the USSC gets around to it, Obama will be in his second term.

  • steve duncan on July 06, 2011 3:16 PM:

    The Tea Party reminds me of an old Twilight Zone episode starring Billy Mumy, to wit (Courtesy Wiki):

    Six-year-old Anthony Fremont looks like any other little boy, but looks can be deceiving. The adults tiptoe nervously around him, constantly telling him how everything he does is "good", since displeasing him can get them wished away into a mystical cornfield, from which there is no return. At one point, a dog is heard barking angrily. Anthony thinks the dog is "bad" and "doesn't like [him] at all," and wishes it into the cornfield. His father and mother are horrified, but they dare not show it.

    Finally, at Dan Hollis' birthday party, Dan, slightly drunk, can no longer stand the strain and confronts the boy, calling him a monster and a murderer; while Anthony's anger grows, Dan yells for the other adults to kill Anthony from behind, and one of the ladies tentatively reaches for a poker, but no one has the courage to act. Anthony points to Dan and cries out, "You're a very bad man! And you keep thinking bad thoughts about me!" Dan is killed, shown indirectly by his shadow, transformed into a jack-in-the-box with his human head, causing his widow to break down. The adults are horrified at what Anthony had done to Dan and beg him to wish it to the cornfield, which he does.

    Because he is angry at what has happened, Anthony causes snow to begin falling outside. His father observes that the snow will kill off at least half the crops. But as the adults look on, worried smiles on their faces, his father smiles and tells Anthony in a horror-tinged voice, "...but it's a real good thing you did. A real good thing. And tomorrow....tomorrow's gonna be a... real good day!"
    Billy Mumy is the Tea Party writ large.

  • c u n d gulag on July 06, 2011 3:20 PM:

    Look folks, Democrats started to lose any credibility on these issues when Clinton and the party went from Main Street to Wall Street and sided with the bond traders over the debt and corporations on NAFTA.

    What's the Democratic motto?
    'Well, yes, but we won't kill you as fast!'
    That's not much of a rallying cry.

    Democrats have willingly neutered themselves for a handful of silver corporate dollars.

  • flubber on July 06, 2011 3:27 PM:

    I might be unclear on the procedural issues, but the Senate is controlled by the Dems.

    So Mr. Benen can complain of those Rascally Republicans, but instead of introducing a bill to consider the idea of raising taxes on higher earners, the Dems could just as easily have introduced a bill actually raising taxes on the wealthy. Then the Senate could debate that.

    The Dems don't want to raise taxes either. Not enough of them, anyway. "Look what the Rascally Repubs won't let us do!"

    Republican resistance is just a convenient excuse.

  • jcricket on July 06, 2011 3:39 PM:


    Actually, the constitution mandates that all tax bills originate in the House.

    Having said that, this non-binding measure is a waste of time and energy.

    I wish Schumer were the Majority leader instead of Reid.

  • Archon on July 06, 2011 4:14 PM:

    Republican constituents don't care about taxes for the wealthy. All they care about is that there are some poor inner city blacks that don't make enough to pay federal income taxes yet have the nerve to ask for government assistance.

    Conservatism today makes about as much sense as sting theory unless you look at this through the prizm of race; Obama's race and the race of his core constituents.

    What and how much wealthy people pay in that context is irrelevant.

  • Efrenzy on July 06, 2011 5:03 PM:

    Flubber and JCricket, in addition the Dems have the majority only by a technicality. We do not have control over the 60 vote ceiling - the GOP is holding the country hostage with the minority of 40 votes. This non-binding measure is a way of spotlighting the insanity of the GOP. If they vote no (aka, no sacrifice from the wealthy), then their chances of reelection have dropped massively, and they will continue to administer self-inflicted amputation. If they vote yes, the vote provides a shred of cover against the far-right idiots so that the GOP can vote for the debt ceiling, but the Dems will have the ammunition to use to pound the GOP for tax increases. Either way, the GOP loses in an extremely visible way, which is not good for the 2012 elections.

  • Justsomeguy on July 06, 2011 5:17 PM:

    This is why my favorite scene in "Mars Attacks" is the one wherein the Martians address a joint session of Congress and then proceed to fry them all. When I saw it in the theater, people cheered.

  • Schtick on July 06, 2011 5:20 PM:

    Tomb, When they talk about paying taxes, they always talk about the tax rate, never about how much is actually paid. I would expect if I'm making $50k a yr and someone in the top 10% is making $50mil a yr, they would pay more in taxes than me no matter what the rate. The problem is, all the loopholes they get.
    I know friends of mine would get so upset with the seven figure salaries of our elected officials paying less in taxes than they did making $45k a year. I don't think that those people making $50 mil a yr are going to end up collecting food stamps or losing their home from paying a few million in taxes.
    Then you have companies making millions/billions every quarter, being subsidized by the government and paying NO taxes, like GE, and getting tax breaks on top of that.
    And Anonymous, I have as much faith in those numbers and charts from the tax foundation as I would if they were set up by Kyl or Pawlenty.

  • square1 on July 06, 2011 5:28 PM:

    As far as I can tell, the only people being played for suckers are the Democratic base, including Benen. Flubber is spot on: Non-binding resolutions are a joke. You either raise spending or you cut it. You either raise go taxes or yu cut them. I don't give a fuck what the "sense of the Senate" is.

    It is completely transparent that the purpose of the bill is to give the Democrats a fig leaf so that when they sell out -- and they will -- they can go back to their constituents and point to a meaningless non-binding resolution as proof that the Democrats really, really want to make the wealthy share in the pain of the austerity measures.

  • Doug on July 06, 2011 9:25 PM:

    I don't know what it is with some posters! Democratic Senators are trying to force their Republican fellow members to go on record as being AGAINST having the rich make any "sacrifices" in order to meet the "debt/deficit" crisis. And you're bitching about it?
    For example, Live Free or Die has, apparently, been watching too many old Stallone movies. Either that or he wants the Democrats to adopt the same authoritarian, lock-step, reduce-everything-to-a-soundbite tactics Republicans use for Democrats to achieve THEIR aims. I've got news for you, politics IS compromise. That the Republican Party ISN'T practicing politics is one of it's, and the country's, major problems.
    HOW one goes about achieving one's political aims has an immense effect on WHAT those aims will be. The Republicans, knowing they have to have a majority of the votes to enact legislation, have shown themselves past masters at distracting voters, denying voters their rights, rigging the electoral system where- and whenever possible and, as in 2010, plain, old, outright lying. Don't tell me that people who do such things, no matter how "pure" their motives may have been originally, aren't affected by the methods they use.
    square1, might I suggest a few courses in "Politics, Theory and Practice"? Because, frankly, basing one's political actions on "How to Win Friends and Influence Enemies" by Jimmy Hoffa is, to say the least, counter-productive. Or it is, at any rate, if a functioning, modern democratic society is what you're striving for.
    I could be wrong about that...

  • bob h on July 07, 2011 6:48 AM:

    It is almost as though the rich represent some kind of priesthood, some kind of religious state of grace in the Republican mindset that they do not want to trifle with.