By Robert Schlesinger |
Why are Republican members of Congress bailing on Grover Norquist? Why is President Barack Obama pressing so hard on eliminating the Bush tax cuts for wealthy Americans? The answer is changing public opinion on taxes.
A conservative friend (yes I do have conservative friends) asked me the other day why the GOP is taking the heat for driving the country over the political cliff. I told my friend that voters are holding the GOP's feet to the fire because the party is on the wrong side of the tax issue.
Steven Colbert joked that Grover Norquist are the only two words that scare Republican politicians more than "buenos dias." Norquist must not have been a happy camper when he saw the results of a new Washington Post and ABC News national survey. Three out of five Americans (60 percent) favor the president's plan to raise the income tax rate on people making more than a quarter of a million dollars. Even a majority of Americans (57 percent) who make more than $100,000 favor the tax increase on rich people. By a margin of 44 percent to 49 percent, Americans reject the GOP proposal to put a ceiling on tax deductions. It must pain Republicans and perhaps the president to know that only three of 10 Americans (30 percent) want to cut spending by raising the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 67. Ouch! Republicans never do well with numbers anyway. In supply side economics two plus two equals five.
Reaganomics worked like gangbusters for the GOP for a generation. There's no voodoo like the voodoo that Ronald Reagan did. Voters bought the argument that you could disregard the rules of mathematics and reduce the budget deficit by reducing taxes. The GOP's arguments just don't add up for Americans any more. What happened to send the old Republican warhorse to the glue factory?
For one thing, the GOP went to the well more than once too often. Voodoo economics became the GOP answer to almost every problem. If the weather was bad, the Republican answer was that the sun would shine again if the government cut taxes on bankers and billionaires and on the other GOP budget buddies on Wall Street. Receding hairline? No problem, supply side economics would put hair on your head and on your chest.
Success may have gone to Republican heads. Reaganomics worked so well for so long that the GOP never bothered to come up with anything else. The GOP approach to the economy reminds me of a successful young pitcher who can hit 100 mph on the radar gun but doesn't last more than a few years because he never learned how to throw a curveball.
The economy was the big issue for voters in 2012, but all Mitt Romney offered as a solution was (you guessed it) tax cuts for rich people. Been there, done that. Voters certainly had questions about Barack Obama's handling of the economy and they were clearly looking for an alternative. But Romney never offered a comprehensive program to grow the economy so voters turned their back on him and the GOP.
Everybody now knows the Republican Party has demographic problems and it shows up in positions on tax cuts. Voters under 30 overwhelmingly favor an increase in the tax rate for rich people. Young Americans care more about helping others than they worry about tax bills. The problem for the GOP is that the millennial generation will become an even greater proportion of the electorate as time goes on. Young people just aren't buying the GOP argument that tax cuts will protect their financial security. Or maybe it was just that people learned by experience. Ronald Reagan and the second President George Bush cut taxes and they both left behind federal deficits that would choke the proverbial horse. President Bill Clinton raised taxes and left a big federal budget surplus behind for his successor. Two plus two does equal four after all. Voters have moved on but the GOP never did.
About Brad Bannon President of Bannon Communications Research
Pete Sepp Executive Vice President of the National Taxpayers Union
Judson Phillips Founder of Tea Party Nation
Richard Rahn Senior Fellow of the Cato Institute
Penny Lee Democratic Strategist