In typical scatterbrain form, I was a week early on my post-op. On the positive side, I got up early and got yet more practice in going from the wheelchair to the car. And I’ve also done all of my upper body exercises (hey, it just occurred to me–does using a giant rubber band for resistance for a few minutes satisfy my four-year-old New Year’s resolution to go back to the gym? Probably not).
So, it’s onto the news of the day. The first thing that jumps out at me is that unemployment has crept up to 8.3% (from 8.2%). During his remarks today, the President’s focus was on extending the Bush tax cuts, in an effort to obscure the increase in unemployment.
Romney needs to capitalize on Obama’s vulnerability with regard to taxes. When Obama argues for a temporary extension of the Bush tax cuts, he is arguing for a tax hike down the road (via an expiration of the cuts).
This is where Romney can bury Obama–by forcing him to answer the question, “when is it a good time to raise taxes?”
Let’s make it into a multiple choice thing:
1) A good time for the government to raise taxes is
A) When the economy is slowing to recession levels
B) When the economy is picking up the pace after several quarters of slow growth
C) When the economy is growing steadily in the 2% range
D) When the economy is growing steadily in the 4% range
Well, let’s see. Everyone from Bill Clinton to Barack Obama has acknowledged that raising taxes slows the economy. So that fact alone (and it is a fact; the correlation between rising taxes and slower growth is undeniable…) as I was saying, that fact alone eliminates answers A, B, and C. The only good time to raise taxes is when the economy is growing robustly; a booming economy can best withstand the strain of a tax hike without plummeting into a recession. Perhaps the question should have read “When is the safest time to raise taxes?”
Once we’ve all agreed that taxes are the kryptonite of economic growth, the next logical question is:
2) The actual purpose of raising taxes is
A) To lower the deficit
B) To lower unemployment
C) To help small businesses
D) To make sure the rich are paying their fair share
Again, the actual EFFECT of higher taxes–slamming the brakes on growth–eliminates the first three answers, and leaves us with the only non-economic answer offered. Making sure “the rich are paying their fair share” is an emotional answer–and a subjective one.
I remember when the Bush tax cuts of 2003 passed. Tom Daschle, the Democratic leader of the Senate, held a press conference in front of a Lexus proclaiming that Bush’s tax cut was tantamount to giving everyone who made a million dollars a year a brand new Lexus.
It was true that the Bush tax cuts allowed the guy making a million to keep, in round numbers, $35,000 out of the $360,000 that he was paying the federal government. Now he only had to pay Uncle Sam (in federal income tax alone) $325,000.
I said at the time of the Daschle press conference that what the Republicans should do is hold their own press conference, standing in front of ten Lexuses, with the message being. “The Clinton tax increase took ten Lexuses away from millionaires. President Bush wants to give just one back. Senator Daschle is unhappy about it. Just whose money is it, Senator Daschle?”
When the President and his party talk about how much money “rich” people pocket thanks to this or that tax cut, they never mention how much those “rich” people are paying to begin. If Romney can shift the debate in that direction, there no way Obama can win.