Servicing the one percent

    It’s an exceedingly rare event, roughly akin to catching a glimpse of Haley’s Comet, but for once the Democrats have managed to box the Republicans into a corner and expose the GOP’s worst plutocratic instincts.In Scranton today, President Obama will argue in favor of extended tax breaks for the average American – via deeper cuts in the federal payroll tax levied on workers – and he’ll propose that Congress recoup the lost revenue by modestly hiking taxes on millionaires. Senate Democrats have already readied a vote on this plan, probably at week’s end. In the simplest terms, Senate Republicans will have a choice: Do they support tax breaks for the average Joe, or do they prefer to protect their rich clients?

    Take a wild guess which side the GOP has already chosen.There once was a time when Republicans believed that all tax cuts, including payroll tax cuts, were intrinsically good. But, of course, now that the Alien Other is pushing for a payroll tax cut, it is seen as intrinsically bad. Worse yet, Obama’s idea would put more stimulative spending money into the hands of the working stiff – while taking a pittance away from the rich. Perish the thought! Clearly, that fairness trade-off is not acceptable to a party that traditionally does its best to service the one percent.This would appear to be dicey terrain for the GOP, especially since polls continue to show landslide support for higher taxes on the rich. And imagine what the polls would say if people were asked: “Would you favor higher taxes on the rich in order to protect American jobs?” Because that’s what we’re really talking about here.As Chris Wallace pointed out on Fox News Sunday, a failure to extend the payroll tax break (negotiated last December, and set to expire soon) “will cut GDP growth one to two percent next year, and cost more than half a million jobs.” That’s the word from economists – including former McCain ’08 adviser Mark Zandi, who warns that an end to the payroll tax break, and the consequent reduction in consumer spending, would tip us into a new or deeper recession. (Cue right-wing attacks on Mark Zandi.)But Republicans are not daunted by the polls or the stats. In response, they just make stuff up.Rather than defend the rich outright – that’s way too unsubtle – they simply redefine who the rich are. In their alternative universe, the rich are just a bunch of job-creating small businessmen. And they don’t want those job-creating businessmen to pay more taxes. In the words of a House Republican spokesman, the GOP opposes a “job-killing tax hike on small businesses.” Similarly, Republican Senator Jon Kyl, a member of the GOP leadership team, contended on Fox News Sunday: “By taxing the people who provide the jobs, you put off the day we have economic recovery and job creation in this country. (Obama’s tax-the-rich plan) would hit those people, the small businesses who we all acknowledge are the ones who create the jobs.”Lest we forget, Kyl is the guy who earlier this year stated on the Senate floor that abortions comprise 90 percent of the workload at Planned Parenthood, and when a Kyl flak was informed that the abortion workload is actually three percent, the flak insisted that Kyl’s 87 percent misfire “was not intended to be a factual statement.” Kyl’s Sunday remarks were in the same spirit.For starters, Treasury Department figures, as well as stats collected by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, already conclude that a mere one percent of small business owners would pay higher taxes under the Obama plan. The rest – 99 percent – do not meet the definition of millionaire; in other words, those small businesses would not be dunned for more tax money. Quite the opposite, in fact. Kyl somehow omitted another key feature of the Obama plan: a cut in payroll taxes paid by employers, specially those who add new hires.The proposed tax hike on the rich – more specifically, a 3.25 percent surtax – would make up the difference in the federal budget. But the Republicans know which side they’re on. They’re in business to protect the rich, not the little guy. They’ll never allow Obama’s plan to pass the Senate – regardless of what most Americans want, and regardless of the stats which show how the plan would help the economy. (Indeed, helping the economy is the lowest priority item on the GOP agenda. As Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell has said, defeating Obama is the top item, and that political goal is easier to achieve with an idle economy.)Democrats are well aware, of course, that their plan won’t pass, that they’ll probably have to cut a December deal with the GOP just to extend the payroll tax cut (by jettisoning the surtax on the rich, no doubt). But they figure they can at least score political points with voters by demonstrating that the GOP, when given a stark choice between the rich and the working stiff, will instinctively side with the former.And given the current anti-plutocrat mood in America, this clearly rebounds to the Democrats’ advantage, right? Not necessarily.Republicans don’t seem to care that they look bad siding with the rich against the 99 percent, as the Senate vote slated for Friday would clearly show. They don’t seem worried that swing voters will lash out against the party. They’re clearly trusting in the big picture – notably, the jobless rate – and figuring that voters in the end will lash out against the guy who sits in the office where the buck stops. And they may be right. Regardless of how badly they behave today, the plutocratic partiers may hold the ultimate trump card.——-Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1

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