President Barack Obama wants the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 extended at the end of this year for only those making under $250,000, and not for small business owners and two-income families—sorry, “the filthy, stinking rich.”
Republicans, including House Minority Leader John Boehner, want all of the tax cuts renewed.
Last June, Obama’s former economic advisor Christina Rohmer published an empirical paper demonstrating that tax cuts stimulate economic growth.
In July, Obama’s Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke observed that continuing all of the Bush tax cuts past 2010 would be a wise idea.
Recently, moderate Democrats and Independents in Congress including  Senators Kent Conrad, Evan Bayh, Ben Nelson, Jim Webb, and Joe Lieberman, and a dozen  Representatives, have stated that they are open to extending all of the Bush tax cuts.
Last week, Peter Orszag, Obama’s former Director of the Office of Management and Budget, wrote  an editorial in the New York Times supporting both sets of tax cuts as preferable to neither.
On Monday, Rasmussen reported that a majority  of Americans favor letting the Bush tax cuts continue for upper income brackets.
Naturally, in this environment of receptiveness to renewing the Bush tax cuts and reinterpreting economic history, Boehner has capitalized on the wave of bipartisan goodwill and public support by announcing  that he is fine with… discontinuing the tax cuts for high earners.
The setup for Boehner’s boner was foreseeable, since it has happened to spineless Republicans too many times before. During his speech last Wednesday in Cleveland, Obama did a nice little hit job on Boehner and his policies, claiming that Boehner had no new ideas and simply wanted to return to the Bush era.
Last week, The New York Times did  its own hit job on Boehner.
On Sunday, Boehner did something to actually deserve a hit job.
On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” host Bob Schieffer tried, successfully, to trap Boehner into saying that he would support only the middle class tax cuts, if Democrats opposed the tax cuts on high earners.
I may be reading too much into the tea leaves, but it seems that Schieffer may possibly have tipped his hand to Boehner when he rhetorically asked his audience, in the immediate lead-up to the interview, “Will he try to block middle-class tax cuts, if he can’t get the same cuts for the wealthy? We’ll ask.”
When asked, Boehner sheepishly agreed that this would be a dandy idea.
Schieffer rubbed Boehner’s nose in his blunder by restating, no fewer than three times, what Boehner’s new position on taxes apparently was. Boehner never once regained his footing.
As Mark Levin put it, Boehner responded to Schieffer by “embracing the template of the left, rather than deconstructing it.”
In the midst of a national anti-spending, anti-taxing, anti-class warfare tempest, in which Republicans have their largest lead by far in the history of the generic poll, and are poised to make overwhelming gains in Congress, Boehner decided, on the most important issue of the day, to punt.
Evidently Boehner fears that if he stands his ground against extending only some of the tax cuts, Democrats will try to portray the Republican leader as opposing all tax cuts. This is like portraying a fish as opposing water. Even liberal voters don’t believe Republicans are opposed to tax cuts.
Boehner should have responded, “I object to the premise of the question, which inappropriately puts our side on the defensive. Why aren’t you asking House Democrats, who are actually the ones in power and can set the agenda for what we vote on, whether they would veto tax cuts for the middle class if the legislation didn’t exclude tax cuts for people in the upper brackets? Is their irrational desire to punish the rich so strong that they would hurt lower income earners just to spite Republicans? Are they not even going to allow an up-or-down vote on our proposal?”
When the Republicans sweep Congress in November, they will need a leader who can bravely implement conservative views and oppose Democratic monstrosities.
House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Senate Minority Whip John Kyl all disavowed Boehner’s comments on Monday, affirming that they would insist on a vote on renewing the entire set of tax cuts. McConnell and Kyl reported that all 41 Republican Senators are opposed to extending the tax cuts to only the middle class. But no—Boehner had to make nice to a liberal talk show host and demonstrate to Democrats that he was too weak-kneed to stand up to their disastrous agenda.
I don’t care if Boehner is “triangulating,” or trying to win points with the administration because he thinks Obama’s bill can’t pass the Senate anyway. He needs to defend the principle that tax cuts for high earners increase incentives to invest and take risks, and yield greater government revenue, and he needs to say it using those terms. Boehner may think he’s being clever, but what if his strategy backfires during the upcoming lame duck session of Congress—a distinct possibility, given the ruthless kamikaze machinations we saw from Democrats on the health care bill? What if his words lead some moderate Republicans to feel pressured into giving in on tax cuts?
This is not an ideological purity test—it is a test of basic competence. If Boehner isn’t clever enough to come up with an uncompromising response to a predictable query from a leftist septuagenarian in the dinosaur media, then he’s not adept or coherent enough to be an effective House Majority Leader for the reenergized, newly ascendant, Tea Party-infused conservative movement.