John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Dems Punt on Taxes

Posted on April 7, 2011
Balancing the federal budget (or at least making the unbalanced budget look more respectable) usually requires two kinds of actions from policy makers: cutting spending and raising revenue.

Republicans like to focus on cutting spending. Their political philosophy includes an innate distrust of government interference and an abiding faith in the free market, so cutting spending works well for them.

Democrats usually like to focus on raising taxes, especially on rich people. They believe deeply that government can solve all problems, and they also believe that rich people have plenty of money and that they can afford to give a few bucks to hire a few more bureaucrats.

Neither cutting spending (unless you are talking about foreign aid or earmarks) nor raising taxes is politically very popular.

Some may think that cutting spending is now suddenly the cool thing to do, but believe me, when Republicans actually try to pare back Medicare spending, they will find out the hard way how unpopular such spending cuts are with the voters who actually vote.

In fact, polls show that spending cuts for education, health care, national defense, veterans, science research and almost every other kind of government spending (except for foreign aid or earmarks) is not very popular with the voters.

Despite these polls, Republicans are moving forward on their plans to cut spending to the bone, in the hopes that the voters will reward them for being courageous and for being responsible.

Democrats, on other hand, have completely punted on their part of the bargain. Their liberal allies on the outside keep talking about how the rich have to pay more, but when it comes to actually raising taxes (any taxes) the President and Senator Reid have decided to be exceedingly cautious.

Polls show that raising taxes on millionaires is politically pretty popular, but when the Democrats had the opportunity to raise taxes on the filthy rich last year, they demurred. They had huge majorities in both the House and the Senate, and instead of soaking the rich, they extended the Bush tax cuts for the rich that they have publicly condemned for so long.

For the Democrats, it is far better to talk theoretically about raising taxes than to actually do it. They do this for a couple of reasons. First, they want to put Republican budget cutters on the defensive, so they try to paint them as protectors for the rich. That has long been a theme. But because they ask so many rich people for campaign contributions, they know that actually following through on their threats would be political suicide, so they accompany their rhetoric with knowing winks and nods, giving their friends the secret signal that there is no way that they will put the rhetoric to the test.

The fact that Democrats don’t insist on a tax increase is fine with the Republicans. They are happy to balance the budget without raising taxes. They did it in the mid-90s. Of course, they had benefited from both George Bush’s and Bill Clinton’s tax increases the previous five years. But, come to think of it, perhaps that is why Democrats don’t want to raise taxes now, because they remember what happened to Bush and to Clinton when they did raise taxes. Bush lost the White House and Clinton lost the Congress.

But I digress. Republicans are doing their part to balance the budget. They are cutting spending. Democrats are not doing their part. They are not insisting on tax increases. The Republicans are winning. The Democrats? They are getting creamed.

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