Yep, they did it! House Republicans followed each other over the cliff, refusing to raise taxes even on the 0.2% of Americans earning more than $1 million per year. House Speaker John Boehner scuttled a vote on his (in)famous “Plan B” last night once it became clear that enough House Republicans opposed it that he couldn’t pass it. This week Speaker Boehner broke off negotiations with President Obama in their effort to a prevent the U.S. economy from going over the “fiscal cliff” of massive tax increases coupled with massive spending cuts, claiming the President’s offer wasn’t a “balanced approach” of increased revenue matched with spending cuts. It was the typical Republican negotiating tactic of moving the goal posts – get the President to meet you halfway, and then moving the goalposts further and saying “now meet us halfway again, until we get everything we want”. The President campaigned and won on a pledge of letting tax rates increase back to Clinton era tax rates for income over $250,000 annually. In an effort to meet Republicans halfway he offered to raise that to $400,000, along with an offer strongly opposed by many in his own party to reduce Social Security benefits by changing the way increases tied to inflation is calculated. Obama also abandoned his demand for permanent borrowing authority. Instead, he proposed a new debt limit that would last two years, putting its renewal beyond the politics of a 2014 midterm election. Boehner’s sizable “my way or the highway” Teapublican right wing faction threatened an all out revolt if he even considered that proposal. So Boehner came up with his Plan B.
What was Speaker Boehner’s “Plan B”? It would raise income tax rates only for 0.2% of Americans, those earning over $1 million per year. But only that income over $1 million – it would permanently extend the Bush tax cuts for the first $1 million of income. But that still wasn’t good enough for “my way or the highway” bunch. First they complained that it did nothing to prevent the “sequestration” cuts to defense -spending cuts they demanded and got in the summer of 2011 in exchange for what had previously been routine to raise the debt limit. So Boehner sweetened the deal, offering a measure to cancel the defense cuts and preventing any sequestration cuts for defense the President might order from having “any effect”. Still not enough for the Teapublican Grinch bunch.
“OK” Boehner said, “How about we take the food from hungry children’s mouths”? he asked.
Cuts of billions to food stamps that could knock millions of low-income Americans out of the program. Still not enough? Then how about we take the food from old people’s mouths as well? Cuts to Meals on Wheels, a program that delivers meals to seniors or other individuals who are unable to prepare their own food. What’s that you say? You still hate Obamacare? OK, we’ll throw in cuts to funding to health exchanges that will be created under Obamacare and funding for Medicaid included in the same law. Say what? Your too big to fail banking conglomerate backers are still crying about that Dodd-Frank financial reform law those socialist Democrats passed? OK, we’ll throw in cuts to the Dodd-Frank financial reform law that will yield no cost savings, but will make bailouts of big banks more likely. Still don’t get that America’s fastest growing ethnic group doesn’t like you and vote increasingly heavily Democratic? Then let’s slip in denying the Child Tax Credit to the parents of American children, if the parents are undocumented immigrants.
Still not enough for ya? OK, yeah, we are making an estimated 440,000 Americans who make more than a million a year pay a little more in taxes, so let’s extract some retribution and raise taxes on millions of working poor and lower middle class! We won’t extend the expansions of the Child Tax Credit (CTC), that helps the working poor partially offset the cost of daycare for their under school age children so that they can actually work for a living! And let’s not extend expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and the American Opportunity Credit (AOC)! Not extending these programs will raise taxes between $1,000 and $1,500 on the working poor and lower middle class! It’s sheer brilliance!
But in the end it wasn’t enough and Speaker Boehner came up short. He and his Republican House leadership lobbied hard to win enough votes but they were out-lobbied, out-lobbied by outside special interest groups. A spokesman for the Club for Growth said that after it publicly issued a statement opposing Plan B on Wednesday afternoon representatives needed to make few phone calls on Thursday. “Members of Congress know we’re not afraid to get involved in a primary” said Club for Growth communications director Barney Keller. “Members know that the first thing we do is look to our scorecard, and decide who is a pro-growth vote and who isn’t. And we felt that to vote in favor of Boehner’s plan would be to vote for a tax increase, and against economic growth“.
And there you have the summary of our House Republican majority: controlled by fringe extremist groups that won’t allow a tax increase for even the wealthiest 0.2% of Americans. Republican Congressmen terrified of their chances for reelection if they stand up to them. Speaker Boehner recessed Congress until after Christmas. I hope they find a large lump of coal in their stockings. Happy Holidays to everyone else.