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August 21, 2011 12:10 PM ‘Congressional Republicans want to raise your taxes’

By Steve Benen

This lede in Charles Babington’s Associated Press article today probably isn’t what congressional Republicans wanted to see. It is, however, accurate.

News flash: Congressional Republicans want to raise your taxes.

Impossible, right? GOP lawmakers are so virulently anti-tax, surely they will fight to prevent a payroll tax increase on virtually every wage-earner starting Jan. 1, right?

Apparently not.

Many of the same Republicans who fought hammer-and-tong to keep the George W. Bush-era income tax cuts from expiring on schedule are now saying a different “temporary” tax cut should end as planned. By their own definition, that amounts to a tax increase.

The tax break extension they oppose is sought by President Barack Obama. Unlike proposed changes in the income tax, this policy helps the 46 percent of all Americans who owe no federal income taxes but who pay a “payroll tax” on practically every dime they earn.

The piece goes on to quote Rep. David Camp, R-Mich., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, who said it’s more important to worry about the deficit than a popular tax-cut policy.

The politics of this, as a result, are rather bizarre. President Obama has made this tax cut one of his top priorities, stressing its importance to the middle class, while Republicans are increasingly vocal about their desire to, by their own reasoning, raise middle-class taxes.

This policy, by the way, has traditionally been a Republican idea. What’s more, GOP leaders have not emphasized tax breaks over deficit concerns in general, but they’ve specifically prioritized this tax break over deficit concerns for years.

That is, until President Obama agreed with them, at which point they decided to once again oppose their own proposal.

As Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) recently argued, “If they oppose even something so suited to their tastes ideologically, it shows that they’re just opposing anything that helps create jobs. It almost makes you wonder if they aren’t trying to slow down the economic recovery for political gain.”

The result is a political problem for the already chronically-unpopular Republican Party. They’re not only fighting, by their own reasoning, for a middle-class tax increase, they’ll be waging this fight while opposing job-creation measures.

If I had to guess, I’d say Republicans probably support an extension of the payroll tax cut, but just aren’t willing to say so. Why not? Because then they lose leverage — GOP officials know the White House wants this, and if they simply agree to pass the measure, they won’t get anything extra out of the deal. Hostage strategies have become an instinctual norm for Republicans.

But the more news articles tell the public, “Congressional Republicans want to raise your taxes,” the more likely it is GOP officials will cave.

Update: Kevin Drum makes the case that the GOP may genuinely oppose the tax break, and either way, it’s not really a “hostage” strategy. It’s a fair point.

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.

Comments

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  • Sparko on August 21, 2011 12:17 PM:

    Seriously, they are just inflicting necessary pain on the tax-cheating poor and elderly. They lapse into that silly "51% percent of Americans don't pay taxes" riff every time someone want to raise revenue from appropriate sources. The new rant is that America's poor are still too well off because some of them have big screen plasma televisions. Seriously. The GOP is a radical party that just needs to go the way of all Whigs.

  • Cornhusker on August 21, 2011 12:21 PM:

    I've seen many reports of Republicans getting hammered over their failure to raise taxes in their town halls. Americans want more revenue and they'll be looking for candidates who agree.

    Will the GOP try to outflank Dems on raising revenue, jobs?

    I'd love to see that change.

  • walt on August 21, 2011 12:21 PM:

    I can't imagine the corporate media pushing any meme that hurts the Insanity Caucus. Republicans have pretty much figured us out as a nation. We'll blame Obama for not fixing the economy no matter how obvious the vandalism coming from the other side. Call us stupid, call us ignorant, we're still damn proud to be Americans.

  • meander on August 21, 2011 12:32 PM:

    The Republicans also want to raise your taxes if you are poor, elderly, or have a relatively low income and lots of standard deductions (e.g., child credits) because you might be part of the class of Americans that don't pay federal income taxes (when bringing up this argument, the GOP of course conveniently forgets that these same people are paying plenty of sales taxes, gas taxes, excise taxes, etc.). As part of the move to get more people with "skin in the game", the GOP argues that we should aim at those people "lucky" enough to have very low incomes.

    This bogus argument about the 51% (or whatever) that don't pay federal taxes has some serious legs. I hear it in my office from management, who in all seriousness says that those people need to start paying income taxes so that they'll have a better connection to the nation's health.

  • c u n d gulag on August 21, 2011 12:48 PM:

    Yeah, as usual, the Republicans are calling for everyone to tighten their belts - except of course, for the fat cats who wear pants with expandable waists.

    And they want poor and middle class people to have skin in the game - even if they don't have much more to offer than their own skin into the rich mans game.

    Er, uhm, sorry - "Job Creators (aka, the artists formally known as 'the rich')."

  • LRM on August 21, 2011 1:07 PM:

    Perhaps President Obama should use a nuclear option with his political strategy. It would be the most entertaining thing I can think of if he were to announce he had switched parties and was now a Republican. They would repudiate themselves into a death spiral.

  • Grumpy on August 21, 2011 1:10 PM:

    meander, next time it comes up at the office, mention that the Bush tax cuts were sold as a way to take millions of Americans off the income tax rolls. Yet the same Republicans making the "skin in the game" argument are fighting to make those tax cuts permanent.

    Even stranger, this article isn't even about that!

  • Anonymous on August 21, 2011 1:10 PM:

    This bogus argument about the 51% (or whatever) that don't pay federal taxes has some serious legs. I hear it in my office from management, who in all seriousness says that those people need to start paying income taxes so that they'll have a better connection to the nation's health.


    Remind them that most of the 51% aren't paying taxes because of Republican policies. The Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit knocked millions off the rolls.

  • Cybrguy on August 21, 2011 1:11 PM:

    "This policy, by the way, has traditionally been a Republican idea. What's more, GOP leaders have not emphasized tax breaks over deficit concerns in general, but they've specifically prioritized this tax break over deficit concerns for years.
    That is, until President Obama agreed with them, at which point they decided to once again oppose their own proposal."

    Steve, this is the article that has to be written and given HUGE distribution. We talk all the time about the rethugs having an idea that they immediately drop as soon as The President starts to support it, but there isn't an article out there (that I have found) that specifically delineates each of the times this has occurred with the dates. Someone talented needs to write this article to clearly point out WITH THE DETAILS how disingenuous the rethugs are being. There are plenty of republicans out there who are NOT rethugs and who really just have a different set of priorities for the country. Much of the behavior of the rethugs is being hidden from them. Many Republican just don't believe it, and the faux news echo chamber specifically excludes this info. A fact based article like this without hyperbole and unnecessary partisanship might convince quite a few of those Republicans, if not to vote for the President, at least to pressure their party into more reasonable positions. Remember, not all Republicans are (terrorists) Tea Party Fanatics.

  • Texas Aggie on August 21, 2011 1:15 PM:

    The obvious response to someone who objects to the poor only paying Social Security and Medicare federal taxes is that they should take advantage of the same loophole. Just quit your job, sell your stocks and bonds, put everything in a money market paying 0.3% and you, too, won't have to pay income taxes. Living off your 0.3% and savings, you won't even have to pay SS or Medicare. There's a plan for you.

    Those who don't think their 0.3% is enough can flip burgers at McDonald's or Burger King or wash dishes at Olive Garden. You will have an income to support you and all the food you can eat besides.

    If neither option appeals, then they need to keep their mouths shut.

  • gone_west on August 21, 2011 1:32 PM:

    For those of you needing a reminder fact or two about just how false the argument is that "the poor don't pay taxes", try this:
    http://sociology.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html

  • Texas Aggie on August 21, 2011 1:37 PM:

    It was a pleasant surprise to see AP printing something critical of the republicans and favorable to the president. It could be that reality is catching up with them. It should happen more often.

  • MsJoanne on August 21, 2011 1:44 PM:

    Wow. The GOP is losing Babbington? How long before they lose Fornier? And then how long before they lose everyone outside of the Fox propaganda network? Ah...I'm dreaming right now but perhaps we're seeing cracks in the shell.

  • Tony D on August 21, 2011 2:01 PM:

    I'll tell you what: as an American who doesn't pay federal taxes but who lives paycheck to paycheck, I'll gladly pay those taxes if it means me making $1 million annually. $1 billion annually? Where do I sign up to pay higher federal taxes!?

  • dalloway on August 21, 2011 2:03 PM:

    Something nobody ever mentions, especially not the Republican "tax the poor" crowd, is that NOBODY pays taxes on income below a certain amount. That first 15K is tax-exempt for EVERYBODY. If we start taxing from dollar one, to make sure those irresponsible working poor people pay their fair share, will we tax the higher earners on their first 15K, too? Republicans who don't understand how income taxes work (ie. most of them) might be upset to hear that -- so please tell them.

  • Schtick on August 21, 2011 2:38 PM:

    What the tealiban wackos figure is that people who don't PAY taxes on or before the April 15 deadline have not paid any taxes. Which means in my mind, they do not know what and why money is withheld from their pay.
    When I went to school we learned dumb things like math and accounting and how to figure out our paychecks in jr high because quite a few of the students would get working papers for summer jobs. That education actually stuck with me and as a result most of my life I've had deductions set up from my pay so I wouldn't have to pay on April 15 because I usually needed my savings to pay off luxuries like my remaining bills for heat and electric and plowing from the winter. DOH!!! Talk about the dumbing down of America.

    crapcha....204 entitu....thanks for the invite, but no

  • Robert Waldmann on August 21, 2011 3:37 PM:

    If it is a hostage strategy it reminds me of sheriff black Bart's strategy in Blazing Saddles (too unpc for a link).

    The Republicans would be threatening to shoot themselves in the head if Obama doesn't give them what they want. I'm sure they want a huge debate about whether it is reasoanble for them to demand a tax windfall for multinational corporations in exchange for not demanding a tax increase on US workers. I'm not joking, they are that crazy.

    The logic must be "If it is good for the economy we must oppose it because Obama is a wimp saint and would never ever want Republican Presidential hopefuls to be forced to choose between opposing a payroll tax increase and taking Obama's side against their own party.

    I don't believe in 11 dimensional chess anymore, but I'm perfectly willing to settle for an 11 leaf clover.

  • meanwhile back in reality... on August 21, 2011 4:40 PM:

    Tax me, Republicans, please.

    I'm not paying eough in fed and state and fica, or AL state tax. It isn't enough that my utilities have gone up, my property taxes have gone up. College tuition goes up every year. The kids are starting school again, so there's uniforms and all the school supplies parents now have to shoulder. And credit card companies now hold many Americans hostage for using credit.

    And there's no perks at this end of the financial spectrum, no CEO bonuses, parking spots, travel accounts, severance packages, no corporate jet loopholes...

    But taxing me isn't enough, is it, Republicans. You want my safety nets too, my social security that I've paid in for years, my unemployment insurance, my neighbor's medical expenses on a fixed income that will come out of her pocket if her Medicare goes away, never mind we are already helping her with her groceries. You want to take away the choices women make about their bodies. You want Obamacare rescinded. You work to block any pollution regulations or climate change action. You want more deregulation for corporations while allowing them to give undisclosed amounts of money to the election campaign of your choice.

    The American citizens who don't pay taxes aren't all out for that "free ride", nor are we "moochers". Most of all we are not serfs in the Fox fiefdom over which the hater rich want to dictate control.

    We are people trying to live the remaining shards of the American dream. And we are sick of you.

    And o' hai, where's the jobs, assholes?

  • Reality corrected on August 21, 2011 4:44 PM:

    "or AL state tax" was supposed to be AL sales tax at 8%.

  • neil b on August 21, 2011 5:12 PM:

    Cute irony about the payroll tax, but: 1. it's small change, a couple of percentage points. 2. maybe Obama *should* be opposed to continuing the PT holiday, since it helps to undermine Social Security by weakening the cash flow, making it easier for people in the future to squeeze it by keeping the lower rate and saying "see, we can't afford to make the payments" etc. More to the point about Republican tax raising: they want to raise effective or even statutory rates on the "lower half" that "don't pay federal income taxes" (already a lie anyway since FICA is a tax, and it's federal, doh.)

  • Joe Friday on August 21, 2011 5:48 PM:

    Harold Ford on 'MEET THE REPUBLICANS':

    * "[Obama] needs to come out with a plan that creates certainty around regulations. I encourage a moratorium on new regulations, even with some parts of the healthcare bill. Because if you listen to big business...."

    * "I think the repatriation tax, lowering this tax on money so It can come back in the country, it can go to the federal government. A lot of people worry that the money will be spent on dividends or stock buybacks, who cares ?"

    * "Don't be critical of Wall Street and big business in this country ... they create jobs."

    With so-called Democrats spouting failed RightWing ideology like that, who needs Republicans ?

  • Ron Byers on August 21, 2011 6:53 PM:

    Harold Ford will say whatever Fox News pays him to say. End of story.

  • AMS on August 21, 2011 7:23 PM:

    I've noticed that this trope about 47% of Americans paying no federal income tax is gaining steam lately. Question: will the Republicans have the bare-faced nerve to say, "sure, we're willing to raise taxes---let's change the tax code so all the freeloaders have to pay something in federal income tax!" Alternatively, would they dare make it a condition on other revenue increases (closing loopholes, etc.) that the tax code be changed in that fasnion?

    And would Americans buy it? On the face of it, demonizing 47% of America's households and laying further economic burdens on them would not seem to be a recipe for electoral success, but who knows?

  • L7 on August 21, 2011 7:52 PM:

    It seems likely that the Republicans are simply doing to go against what the Democrats want. It makes me wonder if the Republicans actually do want lower taxes or if they have merely taken that stance in the past because it helps them. Although this seem unlikely it does show that the policies of political parties should be looked at closely, they often do seem to have ulterior motives. But weather that is just part of how the government system of compromise works or is a structural problem of the current system is up for debate.

  • DAY on August 21, 2011 7:56 PM:

    Remember Leona Helms? "Only the little people pay taxes."

  • Sam on August 21, 2011 7:57 PM:

    As unlikely as this seems, it does make sense for the republicans to do this because with the upcoming election, the budget is a growing concern and addressing the deficit is going to be a hot button issue. However, by raising taxes for the middle class, you take away money that they could be putting back into the economy by buying goods which would require companies to hire more employees to deal with this money surge, thereby helping the unemployment issue.

    On the other hand, it makes sense that the democrats are for the tax cuts since they want to appeal to the 46% as mentioned in the article excerpt. I believe that the closer we get to the election, the more political decisions will be based on achieving popular results that may, in the long run, not be beneficial to our country.

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  • yellowdog on August 22, 2011 12:37 AM:

    @DAY: "Remember Leona Helms? "Only the little people pay taxes.""

    I think you mean Leona Helmsley, the sour-faced hotel magnate who went to jail for tax fraud... but the image of Leona paired with Jesse Helms, the late segregationist senator from North Carolina, came to mind... Eek, I cannot imagine a more gruesome couple - but no pair would represent the true spirit of the GOP any better. Yes, a marriage of true minds.

  • Rick Massimo on August 22, 2011 1:31 AM:

    "As Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) recently argued, “If they oppose even something so suited to their tastes ideologically, it shows that they’re just opposing anything that helps create jobs. It almost makes you wonder if they aren’t trying to slow down the economic recovery for political gain.”

    Sigh.

    This is why I hate us.

    No, Sen. Schumer; it CONFIRMS that they ARE trying to slow down the economic recovery for political gain. It has been blatantly obvious for at least a year, and it's time to start screaming it at them every chance you get. no more of this mealy-mouthed business. They sure as hell don't talk like that.

    P.S.: Has anyone asked Grover Norquist what he thinks about letting the payroll tax holiday expire. Either answer would make things interesting.

  • aolson on August 22, 2011 3:54 AM:

    "Republicans are increasingly vocal about their desire to, by their own reasoning, raise middle-class taxes." The "by their own reasoning" part stands out to me as a clear indicator of some kind of political spin. If it's advantageous to classify the end of a tax cut as a tax raise, that's what it'll be called; but the same scenario could just as easily be labelled in the complete opposite direction.

    "Hostage strategies have become an instinctual norm for Republicans." This is why the phrase "straightforward politics" has come to sound like a bit of an oxymoron.

  • Noogan on August 22, 2011 7:36 AM:

    Why doesn't this article inform readers what the payroll tax cut really means? It means you are not paying into Social Security; your social security pay-in is 2% lower. What that means for ordinary people is that when their Social Security pay-out is determined, it will be lower. So, you're taking money out now, and when it comes time to determine how much Social Security you receive, it will be lower. Think about it. Obama is stealing your future Social Security from you now, to prop up his fiscal budget numbers. But it's backdoor theft from your future Social Security.

  • just bill on August 22, 2011 8:28 AM:

    no, noogan, that is not true. social security benefits are calculated based on a 30 year period of earnings. the amount that is paid in plays no part in the calculations. however, it does mean less money going into the trust fund, leaving less money available to pay future benefits.

  • Lipton on August 22, 2011 1:29 PM:

    Reading all these well thought out posts it makes me so happy to have clicked on this link. It has really opened my eyes to the fact that we need a one party system - let's call it the Socialist Workers Party. No reason everyone shouldn't have the same opinion - that is the one you are told to have. Evidently we have reached the point of having a 2 class society - the rich and the poor (the new middle class). Here is a solution. Let's charge 0 dollars in taxes for the first 50k and then anyone making more than 50k will be compelled to pay 50% tax rate therefore taking them down to the "middle" class. and those that have the audacity to make 100K can give 65% just to teach them a lesson and then the government can spend like a bunch of drunken fools. Or we could do the realistic thing when your outgo is more than your intake. CUT spending drastically and yes - raise more revenue that means taxes and not just on the rich. At juncture we could tax the "Rich" at 80% and still not take care of the debt (unsustainable mean anything to anyone?). Taxes will need to be raised on the middle class as well (of which I am one). Or if we want a nanny state then let's give all of our earnings to Ceasar and let Ceasr decide who is deserving and who isn't then we can stop all the bickering and maybe do what is best for the country as a whole rather than striving for political gain or bragging rights. This country will end like most empires as the arrogant watch on and point fingers. You can go back to bashing all that think other than yourself and ignoring all the atrocities of the liberal wing. Point is. The whole thing, right and left is a mess!

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