Republicans say that any tax cuts must be paid for with spending cuts elsewhere, and this is certainly true. But what they’re talking about in the present case is payroll tax cuts. Certainly, these cuts also must be paid for with spending cuts from somewhere else, but the logic ends there.
Senator Dick Durbin (D, IL) even calls out the Republicans on the matter, as I’ve written elsewhere. But why are the Republicans letting themselves be drawn into this at all? They’re ceding the terms of the debate and the entire debate to the Progressives.
On what basis do the Republicans—or anyone—agree that funding for Social Security should be cut? This is a program that is already widely acknowledged to be desperately in need of reform or it’s destined for failure, yet the Progressives refuse to allow any reform. Cutting funding by cutting payroll taxes that are intended for the Social Security Trust Fund only hastens that collapse. Instead, we get Senator Jon Kyl’s (R, AZ) lame answer that “The payroll tax doesn’t go into general revenue. It supports Social Security.” While true, it misses the whole point. What is the Republican’s plan for reforming Social Security (and Medicare)? Congressman Paul Ryan (R, WI) put forward ideas for both programs in the budget the House passed in 2010 that are worth serious discussion. Yet Republicans have barely mentioned those ideas since: were they not serious about these reforms?
More to the point, why didn’t Kyl turn the argument back on Durbin and ask him why he’s opposed to really leaving money in the hands of Americans and our businesses by supporting income tax cuts for everyone?
Senator Durbin has agreed that tax cuts are good for Americans (he said so with the payroll tax cuts); Republicans should be arguing for income tax cuts, and permanent ones, not just via the annual argument over extending the Bush tax cuts, or some subset of them. Republicans should be challenging the Progressives to offer legislation that provides for permanent income tax cuts for individuals and for businesses; they have a willing ally in Senator Durbin. Or he’ll be shown by the debate to be disingenuous. Republican candidates for President have offered real, broad tax reform; Republicans should be discussing these ideas more—in town hall meetings, on the floor of the House and Senate, on the radio and TV talk shows, at every chance they get—and they should make chances to talk about them. Since they don’t do any of that, I have to ask: of what are they afraid?
The US already has the most progressive individual income tax structure in the developed world. The President is openly engaging in class warfare as he campaigns for reelection and for his More Taxes More Spending ideology. The Progressives in the Senate have not allowed the Senate to satisfy its statutory duty to propose an actual budget—of any sort—for nearly three years. The Progressives nearly blew up the debt ceiling negotiations over their refusal to cut spending and their demand to raise taxes. The Progressives did succeed in blowing up the Super Committee with their nonnegotiable demand to raise taxes by $1 trillion dollars. The Republicans need to be calling out the Progressives on all of this.
Instead, Republicans let the Democrats control the argument and limit it to a narrow, doomed to fail path.
On top of this, the only jobs program that gets debated is the Progressives’ tax and spend Jobs Bill, while the Republicans don’t even have a coherent jobs message of their own, much less an actual plan. Oh, yeah, there’s that Ryan bill from nearly two years ago. About which they’re absolutely silent.
By letting the Progressives have the debates on their terms—again—and by having no coherent message of their own, the Republicans are in danger of giving control of the House right back to the Progressives in 2012 and of leaving control of the Senate and of the White House in their hands, too. We’ve seen how well that’s worked for our country. Four more years will only extend the damage to national disaster proportions.