Archive for December 23rd, 2011
The GOP’s Payroll Tax Fiasco
How did Republicans manage to lose the tax issue to Obama?
GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell famously said a year ago that his main task in the 112th Congress was to make sure that President Obama would not be re-elected. Given how he and House Speaker John Boehner have handled the payroll tax debate, we wonder if they might end up re-electing the President before the 2012 campaign even begins in earnest.
The GOP leaders have somehow managed the remarkable feat of being blamed for opposing a one-year extension of a tax holiday that they are surely going to pass. This is no easy double play.
Republicans have also achieved the small miracle of letting Mr. Obama position himself as an election-year tax cutter, although he’s spent most of his Presidency promoting tax increases and he would hit the economy with one of the largest tax increases ever in 2013. This should be impossible.
Steve Moore on the House GOP scuttling the Senate’s payroll tax cut extension.
House Republicans yesterday voted down the Senate’s two-month extension of the two-percentage-point payroll tax holiday to 4.2% from 6.2%. They say the short extension makes no economic sense, but then neither does a one-year extension. No employer is going to hire a worker based on such a small and temporary decrease in employment costs, as this year’s tax holiday has demonstrated. The entire exercise ispolitical, but Republicans have thoroughly botched the politics.
Their first mistake was adopting the President’s language that he is proposing a tax cut rather than calling it a temporary tax holiday. People will understand the difference—and discount the benefit.
Republicans also failed to put together a unified House and Senate strategy. The House passed a one-year extension last week that included spending cuts to offset the $120 billion or so in lost revenue, such as a one-year freeze on raises for federal employees. Then Mr. McConnell agreed with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on the two-month extension financed by higher fees on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (meaning on mortgage borrowers), among other things. It passed with 89 votes and all but seven Republicans.
Senate Republicans say Mr. Boehner had signed off on the two-month extension, but House Members revolted over the weekend and so the Speaker flipped within 24 hours. Mr. Boehner is now demanding that Mr. Reid name conferees for a House-Senate conference on the payroll tax bills. But Mr. Reid and the White House are having too much fun blaming Republicans for “raising taxes on the middle class” as of January 1. Don’t be surprised if they stretch this out to the State of the Union, when Mr. Obama will have a national audience to capture the tax issue.
If Republicans didn’t want to extend the payroll tax cut on the merits, then they should have put together a strategy and the arguments for defeating it and explained why.
But if they knew they would eventually pass it, as most of them surely believed, then they had one of two choices. Either pass it quickly and at least take some political credit for it.
Or agree on a strategy to get something in return for passing it, which would mean focusing on a couple of popular policies that would put Mr. Obama and Democrats on the political spot. They finally did that last week by attaching a provision that requires Mr. Obama to make a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline within 60 days, and the President grumbled but has agreed to sign it.
But now Republicans are drowning out that victory in the sounds of their circular firing squad. Already four GOP Senators have rejected the House position, and the political rout will only get worse.
One reason for the revolt of House backbenchers is the accumulated frustration over a year of political disappointment. Their high point was the Paul Ryan budget in the spring that set the terms of debate and forced Mr. Obama to adopt at least the rhetoric of budget reform and spending cuts.
But then Messrs. Boehner and McConnell were gulled into going behind closed doors with the President, who dragged out negotiations and later emerged to sandbag them with his blame-the-GOP and soak-the-rich re-election strategy. Any difference between the parties on taxes and spending has been blurred in the interim.
After a year of the tea party House, Mr. Obama and Senate Democrats have had to make no major policy concessions beyond extending the Bush tax rates for two years. Mr. Obama is in a stronger re-election position today than he was a year ago, and the chances of Mr. McConnell becoming Majority Leader in 2013 are declining.
At this stage, Republicans would do best to cut their losses and find a way to extend the payroll holiday quickly. Then go home and return in January with a united House-Senate strategy that forces Democrats to make specific policy choices that highlight the differences between the parties on spending, taxes and regulation. Wisconsin freshman Senator Ron Johnson has been floating a useful agenda for such a strategy. The alternative is more chaotic retreat and the return of all-Democratic rule.
© 2011, agentleman.
U.S. foreign policy “significantly contributed” to 9/11 attacks
“The flawed foreign policy of interventionism that we have followed for decades significantly contributed to the attacks. Warnings had been sounded by the more astute that our meddling in the affairs of others would come to no good.”
In a 2002 speech on the floor of the House and in other venues, Paul has asserted that the United States helped cause the 9/11 attacks with its heavy-handed foreign policies. Like most of his controversial positions, there is a consistency to his remarks that sets him apart from other pols and a willingness to tackle the most sensitive of issues.
In fact, he was saying the same thing before the 9/11 attacks. In 1999, while debating a defense bill on the House floor, he said, “Our foolish policy in Iraq invites terrorist attacks against U.S. territory and incites the Islamic fundamentalists against us.”
The problem is that his remarks are often viewed in a blaming-America context, and his stances on foreign policy, national security and the projection of American power put him at odds with many conservatives. Equally important, they are especially hard to defend in a political arena that doesn’t lend itself to nuance.
Returning white supremacist donation is “pandering”
“I think it is pandering. I think it is playing the political correctness.”
Paul is already battling to distance himself from racist commentary that appeared in newsletters published under his name. So his casual dismissal of a 2007 question regarding whether he would return a $500 donation from a Florida white supremacist will only raise more questions about the kinds of people who are affiliated with him.
In this particular instance from the 2008 campaign, Paul called it “pandering” and “political correctness” to send money back to people with whom you disagree. Returning contributions from unsavory characters is a commonplace practice among politicians; by refusing, Paul may have created an even bigger problem for himself down the line.
The Civil Rights Act “violated the Constitution”
“The Civil Rights Act of 1964 not only violated the Constitution and reduced individual liberty, it also failed to achieve its stated goals of promoting racial harmony and a color-blind society.”
Paul’s voting record is miles long after 11 terms in Congress. While it reflects a principled consistency and a contrarian mindset, it’s filled with political land mines. There’s something for almost everyone to object to, including a vote against a 2004 nonbinding resolution commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. Paul was the only member of Congress to vote against the legislation and even gave a floor speech deriding it.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. He voted against the PATRIOT Act, against awarding Congressional Gold Medals to Rosa Parks and Pope John Paul II, and was the only member to vote “present” on the resolution to support military action in Iraq. He even voted against hurricane relief after Hurricane Rita wrecked his own district in 2005.
In an anti-establishment environment, his lonely stands are certain to win admirers. The problem is that they are also certain to put a ceiling on his appeal.
© 2011, agentleman.