Picking nits with Charles Krauthammer: a messaging plan that CAN work
Darleen points to Krauthammer’s advice to the GOP (mirroring the more sternly-worded advice offered here ever since talk of the “fiscal cliff” got John Boehner’s delicious orange tears of imminent surrender flowing) that Republican leadership merely walk away from what Krauthammer rightly notes is an “insulting” offer from Geithner and the President, who are not only offering no cuts, but want increased taxes and an increase in spending by calling for a new stimulus. (Making my own prediction not very far off the mark.)
That’s the “balanced approach” Obama has offered, and the one he keeps pushing publicly in his speeches as a “balanced approach” — as if repetition of the phrase, coupled with his reminders that a balanced approach is what the American people say they want, suddenly turns a demonstrably unbalanced approach into a balanced one by mere claim and repetition.
And yes, the GOP needs to walk away in a huff.
But here’s where I disagree with Krauthammer’s assessment. Reasons Charles:
Yes, for Congressional Democrats it will help them in the future if Republicans absorb the blame because we will have a recession. But Obama is not running again unlike the Congressional Democrats. He’s going to have a recession, 9% unemployment, 2 million more unemployed, and a second term that’s going to be a ruin. That is not a good proposition if you are Barack Obama.
But here’s the thing: there’s no reason this should help Congressional Democrats — and there’s no reason even to cede that point for a moment — provided the GOP’s refusal to capitulate is coupled to a specific, compelling, and (most importantly) truthful narrative that will shift the onus entirely onto the Democrats.
Best of all, the message is relatively simple and should be an easy sell to the public, especially inasmuch as it draws on years of progressive and mainstream press agitprop fed to the electorate and uses that to its own advantage.
It goes like this: To go off the “fiscal cliff” would mean that the Bush tax rates expire and sequestration kicks in. So here are the components of a successful counter-narrative to the one the Dems will offer about GOP obstructionism. 1) The President has already said it is not wise to raise taxes in a recession, and growth and unemployment both suggest that we never really left the last recession. 2) For a decade, the Democrats (and their activist arm in the mainstream media) have told us that the Bush rates were a “tax cut for the wealthy” and Obama has been trying to raise those rates since he took office. 3) Obama is now claiming that, in order to have a balanced approach to budgeting, we must raise tax rates on “millionaires and billionaires” (defined down to $250K or 200K for singles) in order to get them to pay “their fair share.”
It follows, then, that by simply letting the “Bush tax cuts for the wealthy” lapse, Obama will receive what he’s been calling for: 4) a raise in rates “on the rich.” That is, after selling the public on the idea for over a decade that the Bush tax cuts were intended to benefit the rich, the Dems and the press can hardly turn around now and pretend that allowing the rates to lapse wouldn’t therefore take away those benefits to the rich that they claim was their objection in the first place.
More, by allowing the Bush tax rates to lapse, Obama gets a second thing he wants: a cut in the military budget. After all, we don’t use horses and bayonets much anymore, so shrinking the Navy, eg., as he quipped at one debate, isn’t a big deal: the military wasn’t asking for the increases in budgeting Romney suggested, Obama told us, so sequestration merely cuts what wasn’t needed anyway. Therefore, any strain on the military during Obama’s second term can be placed directly at his (and the Democrats’) feet.
Further, the lapse in the Bush tax rates takes us back to the Clinton rates — to the salad days of the US, when a President played the sax and got to bang interns, and all was right with the world! By allowing us to go off the “fiscal cliff,” then, the GOP gives the Democrats what they’ve claimed they’ve wanted for a decade now: 5) a return to the Clinton / Democrat tax rates, with 6) the very “tax cuts” for the middle class he is now pretending to offer, which is really just the status quo Bush rates he will leave in place for certain income brackets.
Let’s put this all together. The Republican leaderships walks away from the talks. They do so and then release a statement somewhere along the lines of the following: “The President has determined that the way forward for our economy is to adopt the policies of the Clinton era. By allowing the Bush rates, long argued by Democrats as tax cuts for the wealthy, to expire — and we very strenuously disagree with his desire to see those rates expire — the President will receive nearly everything he and his party have been calling for: a tax increase on the wealthy; a significant cut in military spending by way of sequestration; and a return to the preferred Democrat tax rates of the Clinton years.
“We believe this is a mistake — that in a struggling economy, you don’t raise taxes, something the President himself noted not too long ago. And in fact, we plan to offer our own budget proposal that provides a tax cut on the middle two categories of wage earners — a %10 decrease in taxes on middle income Americans, which will allow the middle class to keep and spend more of its own money and in turn, we believe, will create jobs, bring people back into the workforce, and therefore provide the desired revenue increase. And we believe that increase in revenue will be more than the $90 billion raised through the Obama proposal, which is money taken out of the private sector economy on the front end, and hardly makes a dent in what is already a budget running $1.3 trillion in deficit spending. Though we have no illusions about how the Democrat-led Senate will deal with such a proposal.
But the alternative offered us — new massive stimulus spending and additional tax hikes on top of all the taxes that will take effect through ObamaCare — is even worse than allowing the Bush rates to expire. And so by walking away from the negotiations, we are in effect agreeing to a compromise and clearing the ground for the President’s recovery plan. Far from being obstructionists, we hope the President and his party, whose Congressional members back his plan nearly universally, is correct — that higher tax rates, a drastically-reduced military budget, and a return to Clinton-era revenue generators, are the keys to a stronger economy, more jobs, and robust growth.
“We don’t believe this to be the case. But elections have consequences, as the President once reminded us. And we are willing to allow the President and his party to try to pull the country out of the sluggish economy they blame in large part on the policies of his predecessor.”
Such a strategy pins everything to the Democrats going forward. And what will happen going forward is not negotiable. The laws of economics can’t be changed by rhetoric and demagoguery. They can only be forestalled with smoke and mirrors, artificially low interest rates and a dollar that is increasingly devalued.
All of which they will own completely and entirely.