Watching the Republican party’s self-destructive pursuit of purity over the fiscal cliff negotiations over the last few weeks gives real meaning to the cliche “cutting off your nose to spite your face.” Because as Phillip Klein points out, if the Bush tax cuts do expire, Obama inevitably wins:
A number of commentators, including myself, have argued that if no deal is reached to avert the “fiscal cliff” and taxes go up on most Americans, then President Obama will be able to structure a massive middle class tax cut in the new year that Republicans would find impossible to oppose. Among the many political implications of such a scenario, one would be that the basket of policies now commonly referred to as the “Bush tax cuts” will suddenly morph into the “Obama middle class tax cut.” In my mind, this would be a major error by Republicans.
Exactly right. Once the Bush tax cuts expire, are they really going to vote against (in the Senate) or attempt to block by not bringing up for a vote (in the House) a bill that would reestablish the tax cuts for all but the wealthiest 2% of Americans? If they do, that would be doubling down on their already damaging way (to themselves, of course) that it would be absolutely perverse. The Republicans have put themselves into a situation where they face two choices: lose little or lose really, really big. But as Klein points out, losing little would actually be a win if they would only recognize it:
Democrats were opposed to both rounds of Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 and have spent a decade blasting them as reckless policy that represented nothing but a giveaway to the wealthy. Yet even though these tax cuts were scheduled to expire after 2010, they were extended an additional two years. And now, they could still preserve 80 percent of them. If 80 percent of the cuts were made permanent, it would forever enshrine the “Bush tax cuts” as major middle class tax relief. Viewed narrowly, allowing rates to go up on those earning more than $250,000 would be a defeat for Republicans. But viewed in a broader context, the fact that a Democratic president coming off of a reelection still has to embrace 80 percent of the dreaded “Bush tax cuts” on the grounds that they’re good for the middle class, could be seen as a victory.
But so far, they’ve got a block of legislators, the ones put in office by the Tea Party movement, that is so obsessively focused on doctrinal purity that they’ve formed a circular firing squad. And to be honest with you, it’s really quite amusing to watch.