As we very well knew it would be, here we go again with the chest-beating and muscle-flexing in Washington. Deliberate leaks about tax reform proposals President Obama would include in his State of the Union address brought from Republicans the response even a casual observer of current-day Washington could telegraph in his sleep: no way, no how, Mr. President! All because the president dares to float again the concept that a modest tax hike for those folks who are worth more money than they know how to spend and others who are comfortably well off and well removed from the jitters routinely afflicting many on the lower rungs is a reasonable tax-policy adjustment. That, plus a small increase in fees levied on the largest financial institutions. And if the revenue thereby derived goes toward funding some relief for middle class taxpayers, why is this such a bone of contention?
Sadly, that kind of talk from the White House is a cue for GOP wisecrackers to come up with their best put-down lines…more so now, when posturing from a strengthened position of full Congressional control. The president’s proposal was “dead on arrival,” said one. It was “a non-starter,” said another. In spite of a ton of reports indicating that the good times we keep hearing about, in a now rebounded economy from the gloom of 2008-09, have been rolling for top income earners, not regular Joes — that the income disparity gap is widening — Republicans keep hanging on to a worn-out monotone that a tax increase of any kind, even for the wealthy, is uncompromisingly off the table.
One measure of how much race has factored in the negative perception of this president is that when an Obama administration proposal is made, aimed at benefitting primarily middle and/or working class folk, a solid majority of people identifying themselves as Republican voters tend to be uniformly opposed, reflecting a visceral dislike of Obama that can only be ascribed to the man’s ethnicity. Do the math. A solid majority of Republicans doesn’t comprise only high rollers from the vaunted one percent, where is to be found that obscene bulk of the nation’s wealth. Common or garden Republican strugglers oppose an Obama initiative, even if it benefits them, because of where it’s coming from.
That Obama hate factor has Republicans clicking their heels in jubilation over what is in fact a false reading of a snapshot of where the country currently is politically. Republican control of the legislative and executive branches of government, but particularly the Presidency and the Senate, defies the logic of where Republicans stand vis a vis the wealth distribution reality in the country. One TV correspondent, reporting on the tax changes Obama planned to introduce for Congressional consideration, noted that the president was well aware that his proposal had virtually no chance of being supported in a Congress controlled by the GOP, but his objective was simply to hang the “party of the wealthy” tag on Republicans every which way. How right he is about that!
There have been a few voices on the GOP side emitting slight murmurs about the need for the party to be more representative of the electorate. Those barely audible voices are drowned out by the big noise made by the forces who pushed the levers for the party’s hard-right turn years ago, wherein the idea of middle ground, which was a viable component in the GOP of yesteryear, was essentially deemed null and void. Today’s GOP has no compunction about its barefaced shilling for big business and the well-to-do. And, given the quirky election results of 2014, advocates for maintaining that seemingly out-of-touch stance must think they’ve got it right.
Hewing to that path, though, could well turn out to be risky business if the pushback that has already begun becomes a serious mass movement, about an economy reportedly on the upswing that looks to be favoring just high-end folks. It stands to reason that any party which chooses to remain wedded to a policy of bringing no change to continued lopsided wealth distribution should expect paying a price for that. Even if from last year’s midterm elections GOP chieftains got only a “steady as she goes” message.
For now, one would expect the president to sell to the people as best he knows how, these tax changes meant to positively impact the broad middle of the American electorate — reduced tax rate, a better deal on the child care credit, community college tuition assistance and all the rest. And the Republicans, predictably, will balk. Hands off the sacred cow that is big business and the well-to-do! For a large swath of the broad middle, this president may not be the ideal pitchman. But here’s a situation where the numbers for the affected are simply too staggering. From where we sit, “steady as she goes” looks untenable.