Posts Tagged ‘Budget’

Obama’s Big Birthday Gift to Boehner

Friday, November 16th, 2012

A follow-up to Opening Bid, inspired by Speaker Boehner’s birthday tomorrow.


“The other option is to pass a law right now that would prevent any tax hike whatsoever on the first $250,000 of everybody’s income. And by the way, that means every American, including the wealthiest Americans, get a tax cut. It means that 98 percent of all Americans, and 97 percent of all small businesses won’t see their taxes go up a single dime. The Senate has already passed a law like this. Democrats in the House are ready to pass a law like this. And I hope Republicans in the House come on board, too. We should not hold the middle class hostage while we debate tax cuts for the wealthy. We should at least do what we agree on, and that’s to keep middle-class taxes low. And I’ll bring everyone in to sign it right away so we can give folks some certainty before the holiday season.” — President Obama Nov. 14 press conference
“Tomorrow is Speaker Boehner’s birthday. So for those of you who want to wish him happy birthday, we’re not going to embarrass him with a cake because we didn’t know how many candles were needed, but we do want to wish him a happy birthday.” — President Obama at meeting this morning with Congressional leaders about fiscal cliff
“A gift in secret pacifieth anger.” – Proverbs 21:14


Mr. Speaker, there’s no time like the present

To take advantage of the President’s present.


No, I’m not talking about that bottle of nice Tuscan red

I’m referring to the much bigger, more valuable gift instead.


President Obama is generously giving you a chance

To change the GOP’s image as the Party of Big Finance.


So relax and enjoy your wine

And don’t listen to Grover‘s and the Tea Party’s whine.


Just think about it, and I think you’ll see:

This can be a win-win for you and the GOP.


So Speaker Boehner, Happy Birthday to You:

Read the details below, and you’ll know what to do.


Here’s video below from the fiscal cliff meeting which President Obama held with Congressional leaders. During the meeting, President Obama reportedly gave Speaker Boehner a nice bottle of wine for his birthday tomorrow, but that pales in comparison to the giant gift which Obama has offered Boehner and his fellow Republicans if they will but accept it: the chance to rehabilitate their political reputation at zero true political cost.

Boehner’s unconditional support for extension of the working and middle class tax cuts would actually be a very smart move for Republicans. He could sell that to reluctant House Republicans by repeating the same mantra that Obama has used: this is something that we all agree needs to be done, so let’s do it right away while we’re working on the rest of the problem. And, Speaker Boehner would ad: if we don’t, it will destroy us politically.

Extending the Bush tax cuts for families earning less than $250K is not a tax increase in any real sense, just as extending the 35% rate for high earners isn’t a tax increase because it doesn’t reduce rates to 30%. Republicans  lost in 2012 in large part because they became identified in voters’ minds as the Party of the Rich, not because of Obama’s ads, but due to Republicans’ own actions and policies.

What happens if Repubs now refuse to extend working and middle class tax cuts unless Dems agree to extend them for the wealthy as well? That short-sighted and empty gesture would perpetuate, extend, and magnify voters’ view of the GOP as the Party of and for the Rich. Until now, that opinion has been supported only by threats to allow lower and middle income rates increase, rather than by the reality of such increases. How will voters react if those rates actually DO go up? They’ll go ballistic, and anger at the GOP will make Tea Party anger about death panels and the individual mandate look like a…, well, a tea party. Sixty percent of voters (including many Republicans) believe tax rates for high earners should increase. Republicans can not both go against that sizeable majority to achieve an unpopular goal via the even less popular tactic of allowing taxes on the working and middle class to rise significantly.

Now let’s look at the flip side of the coin. As everyone knows (or thinks they know, since this actually isn’t quite true), the Chinese symbol for danger includes the symbol for opportunity. Hence, the gift. President Obama has presented Speaker Boehner and the GOP with a beautifully-wrapped opportunity to dispel (or at least counter) the notion in voters’ minds that they care only about the 1 percent, and are perfectly happy to hurt the 99% to get what they want. President Obama is presenting Boehner and the GOP with a chance to prove that’s not true.

But wouldn’t House Republican approval of the Senate bill to extend tax cuts for income under $250K be a giant unilateral concession? Wouldn’t Republicans be giving up their strongest negotiating card? No, because you can’t concede what you don’t have. There is nothing Republicans can effectively do to stop tax rates for the wealthy from increasing. Even if Republicans refuse to compromise during the lame duck session, all Obama and the Dems then have to do is resubmit that same bill extending tax cuts for families earning less than $250K on Jan. 3 and Republicans will be forced to pass it, or face popular anger never before seen in modern America. The only difference between those two outcomes: the second approach will create more than enough voter discontent to guarantee that Republicans lose the House in 2014. This is such a foregone conclusion that GOP acquiescence is not even a card to play. That’s why President Obama has continued to advance his proposal to extend the tax cuts for those earning less than $250K now, and then work out the rest later.

This inevitability means that resistance to the upper-income tax cut expiration is futile, which makes the “concession” to allow that expiration no concession at all. It becomes an obvious no-brainer to make that “concession” in return for the positive PR which it would generate and to avoid the serious negative PR which continuing to oppose middle and working class tax cut extensions would trigger.

And here’s the political kicker: If Boehner pushes the Senate bill through the House extending Bush tax cuts for earnings up to $250K per family based on the understanding that President Obama and Dems will then negotiate in good faith on tax reform and spending cuts, that counter-intuitively shifts some of the political advantage back to Republicans, who can then blame Obama for perfidy (at least on Fox News and the right-wing Blogosphere if Obama “reneges” on his commitment.

That GOP “concession” would also be a neat and counter-intuitive form of jujitsu against President Obama. Many Dems are against any entitlement cuts in any form, but are open to the Obama argument that “we had to concede that in order to extend tax cuts for the working and middle class and let them expire for the rich.” By taking the Bush tax cuts off the table, Boehner would require Obama to pay a higher political price with his own base. And more importantly, that higher price would come at no real cost to Boehner and the GOP, since they are not in a position to force extension of Bush tax cuts for the rich, and are thus in reality conceding nothing.

So, Speaker Boehner: Happy Birthday, and enjoy your wine. But don’t overlook the real birthday gift President Obama is giving you.

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