We're having a remarkable debate over who owns the money.
We Americans pride ourselves on our self-reliance and independence. America, itself, is said to be the last best hope of mankind. We know it's true because of the countless people from every corner of the world who risk death and endure extraordinary hardship in order to reach our shores. They come in search of a better life. They come to America because they know America is a place where they can build their dreams, a place where they can make some money, a place where they get to keep the money they make. That translates to security.
Democrats are bent on changing that. In fact they're having a group tantrum over it, like envious children certain that mom gave one more than she gave the other. To their great horror, some Americans earn more and have more than others, and it has them seething. In the perverse logic of progressivism this is an intolerable injustice that demands correction which they, in their last lame duck gasp, hope to accomplish by preventing high earners from keeping what they make.
A progressive presumption is revealed: The U.S. Treasury has a right to as much of our earnings as our governing elite see fit, in order that they may decide the fairest way to spend it for the common good. Note: The common good can best be defined as their re-election chances. Lefty Democrats are faced with two problems as they contemplate exercising their right to our money.
For starters we are now into the longest recession in history, a recession progressives had been so confident they would stimulate away. It's still here in spite of billions in stimulus, and even thick skulled liberals are dimly aware that raising taxes isn't a good idea when the economy is struggling for traction.
Their second problem is that most Americans resist the notion that someone else is entitled to their toil and sweat. It's only the leftmost of the left who believe in it.
Democrats find their solution in word games. Not raising taxes becomes a "tax cut" in progressive parlance. Allowing Americans to keep what they earn becomes "a giveaway" in lefty vernacular. In the liberal mind, the more successful you are the less you deserve to keep what you earn and if, heaven forbid, the law allows you to keep it, progressives will say you're robbing the poor.
Progressives have a third problem, actually. In order to raise taxes to levels they find more acceptable, lefty Democrats simply need to do nothing. They can have what they want by going home, because current rates which have been in place for seven years now are scheduled to expire at the end of this year. So what's the problem?
It's that damned recession. In the midst of this unending recession they've gone and nailed their class warfare colors to the mast, committing themselves to raising income tax rates on anyone they judge to have made as much money as they ought to. In a nutshell they don't have the nerve to do what they'd like to do. If they did they would be responsible for killing off any hint of a recovery, and they know that voters will punish them severely for it. They've just been given a demonstration.
So lefty Democrats are absolutely livid. Here's a little flavor of their vitriol before Obama negotiated a tax deal with the Republican leadership.
Following several hours of floor speeches hammering the GOP, a handful of Democrats including Sens. Bob Menendez (N.J.), Charles Schumer (N.Y.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Jack Reed (R.I.) and Jeff Merkley (Ore.) attacked Republicans in a press conference, repeatedly using the word “hostage” to characterize the status of middle-class tax cuts.
“Do you allow yourself to be held hostage and get something done for the sake of getting something done, when in fact it might be perverse in its ultimate results? It’s almost like the question of do you negotiate with terrorists,” Menendez said when asked whether he and other Democrats would accept a compromise with Republicans.
“The majority has a responsibility to get something done, but [also] to get something done that is good for the country,” he added.
McCaskill likewise lambasted Republicans, accusing them of putting the wealthy ahead of the middle class and warning that if Republicans win the debate over tax cuts “it really is time to take up pitchforks.” Both Menendez and McCaskill are up for re-election in 2012.
Schumer, who handily won re-election this year, acknowledged the anger vented by tea partyers and others during the election but insisted that didn’t extend to upper-income tax cuts.
Voters “did say ‘repeal health care,’ they did say ‘reduce the size of government.’ But not a single one of them from the tea party or anywhere said ‘give tax breaks to the wealthiest,’” Schumer said in a rare moment of candor.
But Obama cut his deal, and Democrats got everything they wanted: an extension of current tax rates for the middle class, extension of unemployment benefits, extensions on various tax credits. Republicans wanted the rates extended permanently but had to settle for a two year extension, which means we will have this debate again in two years.
To no one's surprise, Democrats are not delirious with joy. They did not get to raise taxes on the rich and it has them so distraught they're threatening to torpedo the whole package. Now who's holding the middle class hostage?
- Earlier this month, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said: "We could take a major step toward fixing our economy today if Republicans stopped holding the Senate hostage to more tax giveaways for millionaires."
- Last month, the liberal Daily Kos complained that the GOP was "holding 2 million unemployed hostage on behalf of richest 2%."
- Back in July, President Barack Obama accused Republicans of "using their power to hold this relief hostage -- a move that only ends up holding back our recovery. It doesn't make sense."
But now it's Democrats who are threatening to hold up the tax deal -- and with it the extension in unemployment benefits (which have already started to run out for millions of long-term unemployed) -- until they get what they want on taxes.
It makes you wonder if Democrats have any clue about the impact of their policies. Based on the likelihood of the tax deal's passage though, one would have to conclude, yes. It's apparent they feel compelled to support it out of fear of what will happen to the economy if they don't. They now own the economy. If the economy stays in the tank, so do their re-election chances, and that, after all, is the only impact they care about.
So we get these charades where things are called the opposite of what they really are. A vote to leave tax rates alone becomes a vote for tax cuts. Leaving money in wage earner hands instead of taking it in taxes is called a giveaway.
The word games attest that progressive policies are important only to extent that they enhance progressive power. Incensed over a projected 10-year loss in revenue that amounts to $700 billion if taxes are not raised on the rich, progressives neglect to mention that the middle class "tax cuts" that they champion are projected to cost $3 trillion over the same period.
Democrats need middle America to buy into the rage. So we get talk of "hostages" and "terrrorists." The language is designed to inflame. After all, who besides a Democrat will be outraged over somebody getting to keep his own money? Word games.
Unfortunately for the left, most Americans think money earned should belong to folks who earn it -- namely themselves. But it may turn out that many high income tax payers are about to begin thinking in terms of tax consequences instead of productive investment. Think of what that means for the economy. How can anybody be surprised at the dismal economic performance under Democratic governance? Word games are the only thing Democrats have going for them.