Republicans like to speak in dire, almost apocalyptic tones about the impact of our growing national debt on future generations of Americans.
Rep. Paul Ryan, for example, predicts that on its current path the national debt “will overwhelm the budget, smother the economy, weaken America’s competitiveness in the 21st century global economy, and threaten the survival of the government’s major benefit programs.”
House Speaker John Boehner paints an equally grim picture, warning that “America’s debt crisis threatens our job growth, our national security and our children’s future. Simply put, our debt threatens our very way of life and, without significant changes, the future of our country.”
Terrifying as our growing debt might be, however, one thing frightens Republicans even more: Tax hikes on the richest 1 percent of American households. Even though wealthier Americans have reaped most of the benefits from a global economy that has left many other Americans struggling to stay in the middle class, the GOP refuses to ask the wealthy to sacrifice to help reduce the national debt.
If forced to choose between raising taxes on the rich by a moderate amount and letting the debt jeopardize “our job growth, our national security and our children’s future,” Republican leaders have made it repeatedly clear they will risk higher debt. Every single Republican candidate for president, for example, is on record as rejecting a solution of 10 dollars in spending cuts in return for a single dollar in tax hikes. And in comments last week, Boehner made it clear that a congressional “supercommittee” charged with reducing the deficit has only one option, spending cuts, because revenue increases will not be considered.
It’s important to be clear about the scale of the sacrifice being sought. For example, President Obama is once again proposing to let the Bush tax cuts for the rich expire as scheduled in 2013. For a couple with an adjusted gross income of $350,000 after taking all their deductions, that would mean an increase in taxes of $4,000, less than 1 percent of their total income. (If a chunk of their income comes from capital gains, the increase would be considerably less.)
That is a fate far too ugly to be contemplated by Republicans in Congress.
It is important to note just how out of touch the Republicans are with the American people. Poll after poll has found overwhelming support for trying to reduce the debt through a combination of spending cuts and tax hikes, rather than through spending cuts alone. The latest such poll, released by the National Journal, demonstrates just how broad that consensus is.
According to the poll, only 28 percent of Americans embrace the GOP position of reducing the deficit through spending cuts alone. Sixty-two percent advocate some mixture of tax increases and spending cuts.
Among independent voters, just 31 percent advocate addressing the problem through spending cuts alone, compared to 59 percent advocating tax hikes as well. Among those making more than $75,000, 29 percent advocate spending cuts alone and 67 percent advocate tax hikes and spending cuts.
Even a majority of Republicans polled (51 percent) support a mixed approach, with just 42 percent supporting the position taken by their elected leaders in Washington. But because the GOP has been taken captive by its own most extremist elements, allowing almost no independence of thought, speech or action, that moderate position has no voice among elected party officials.
– Jay Bookman