Saturday, December 1, 2012

Bare Knuckle Politics: The Fiscal Cliff

A huge amount has been written about the Fiscal Cliff and the maneuvering of the president vs. congress. I think this is another situation where the terrain plays into the Democrats natively and the Republicans are doing everything in their power to make sure that they, themselves, take the brunt of the damage. Does that sound strange? It should. Let's look:

The Basic Obama Position is Popular

  1. I suspect that people are okay with "raising taxes on the rich" since (a) there is a presumption that definitionally the rich are "doing okay" and
  2. People who are only marginally paying attention still do understand that "We need to do something." Increasing 'revenues' (taxes) on the rich ('rich') does 'something' and actually can produce a pretty large number (in the billions) which, despite being 'a lot' of money is not all that much compared to the deficit.

The Republicans Have Lost The Message War
According to Rasmussen  Democrats are more trusted on 9 out of 10 key issues and the 10th is only modestly Republican. If you ask a Republican why this is--how it could be, the answer is nearly uniform: It's the Media.

This is all well and good--except (a) I do not watch the media per se and I can see how the Republicans are consistently own-goaling themselves on this issue and (b) blaming the media is also a strategy to refuse to take responsibility for your own problems (namely: that you are adopting a losing position for short-sighted my-side vs. your-side reasons). Even if the Republican is correct (which is hard to prove) the strategic doctrine the Republicans are employing here is pretty much doomed to destroy them, that's possible to see coming, and still nothing is being done.

What If It's Not The Media?
If I were doing messaging for the GOP I would step back a second and ask myself the scary question: what if the force that is making the Republican position look like they are standing up for the poor, beset rich over the unwashed masses wasn't the media but was, instead, a more insidious and pervasive force: the actual situation itself?

How would I know? It turns out: there might be a way.

Exhibit A: Google
I typed in "Does raising taxes on the rich lower employment"--now I know where to go in order to get talking points for the left or the right--but if I don't? I'll try Google. Here is what I got:
The reality is that: (1) raising taxes on the rich doesn't kill jobs, and lowering taxes on the rich doesn't create jobs, as explained above; and (2) the rich are not the real job creators, as explained below.
Okay, dude has his opinion and hey, maybe it's left-wing. Next item down is Business Insider. It isn't exactly tax-the-rich but here's his end-note:

I will eagerly read any intelligent answers here, but I'm skeptical that cutting taxes will ever create millions of mid- and high-wage jobs. For what it's worth, I also don't think government deficit spending will create millions of mid- and high-wage jobs. I think the answer to our economic problem is Henry Ford's answer: Our super-rich and profitable companies have to voluntarily pay their workers more. But, again, I'm eager to hear how you think lower taxes will fix the jobs problem.
That isn't a sterling argument that wealthy job-creators drive the economy. Rounding out the top-3 is a Forbes (liberal-rag) editorial:
Ask yourself this question: what do you really think caused firms to lay off so many workers that unemployment jumped from 4.4% in May 2007 to 10% in October 2009 (remaining at 8.2% today), a sudden spike in business regulations and taxes, or a collapse in demand?
He doesn't think lowering taxes will help a whole lot. He thinks that cutting government spending and balancing the budget will cause a worse recession.

Now, the issue here isn't whether these guys are wrong (or right) and it isn't about whether that specific question is the right one here either--there are meaningful discussions to be had about that but, basically, it looks to me like if Google (which I will presume is non-partisan for purposes of this discussion) is serving up this sort of information then it isn't "the media" that is making a Democratic case but rather "The Internet" which is not being driven by George Soros.

Exhibit B: Bobby Jindal
I would also look to a few of my rock-stars to see if there was some guidance there. Take Jindal here:

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal on Monday called on Republicans to “stop being the stupid party” and make a concerted effort to reach a broader swath of voters with an inclusive economic message that pre-empts efforts to caricature the GOP as the party of the rich.
To be sure, he's just one voice--but he's not the only one who has noted this.

What Do I Think?
I think the Republican approach to dealing with Obama has been the poker equivalent of going "all in" where you put your whole stack of chips on the table and dare your opponent not to fold. Crooks and Liars makes the case that the GOP incredibly and unusually unified in choosing the obstructionist approach during Obama's term.

I do not believe this is because (as the GOP narrative goes) Obama is so hard-core left that only a slim majority in one third of the government was the only thing possibly standing between the nation and its destruction. Rather, I think that the Republican strategy was driven by fear that Obama would be successful (at least in the short or medium term) with his proposals and would own the "leadership" argument if they went along.

Consider the Payroll Tax Holliday argument: yes, not-funding entitlements will lead to disaster down the road sometime but opposing a cash-boost for the middle and lower classes in a time of crisis seems awfully not-GOP to me (if they are the party of fiscal responsibility, explain the many, many non-fiscally responsible things they have done in the recent past).

Consider that the RomneyCare was not hated by fellow Republicans but, in many cases, actual left-wingers who felt it was a give-away to private insurance companies. If the Republicans had, for example, tried to fold in tort-reform in a bi-partisan attempt at reforming the bill (even during the last days of the Romney campaign he was touting that he'd keep "the good stuff" so he must have thought there was some good stuff in there) it might've been seen as a major win for the American people with Obama  ... leading.

If the Stimulus had been bigger and revitalized the economy ... what then? And so on. The stated goal of making Obama a one-term president created a battlespace where the objectives of the Republicans were actively self-destructive.

Now their chips are all on the table and Obama is (according to polling) holding a winning hand. Great.

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