Sunday, November 11, 2012

Surprise of the day – Bill Kristol talks sense on taxes

So far, in their first round of statements following the election, Congressional Republicans have reiterated their immovable opposition to raising taxes at all for the wealthiest 1-2% ... or, more specifically, accepting Obama's proposal to let the top rates go back to the levels of the Clinton administration while extending the Bush tax cuts for the other 98-99%.
One of the biggest fights as Congress returns will be over taxes, as cuts put in place by former President George W. Bush are set to expire at the end of the year. Republicans want to extend those tax cuts for all income brackets, while Democrats want to raise revenue by allowing them to expire for wealthy Americans.

Exit polls last week found that six in ten voters supported ending the tax cuts on the wealthy, but House Republicans have remained adamantly opposed to allowing any of the rates to expire, instead supporting other changes to the tax code. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) indicated on Friday that was unlikely to change.
The continued intransigence of the Congressional Republicans on this point is, unfortunately, not very surprising. What is more surprising is that Bill Kristol, of all people, just publicly admonished them that this position is politically stupid and self-defeating, and advised them (in effect) to tell Grover Norquist to go to hell.  And he did it on Fox News, no less:
Conservative commentator and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol said Sunday the Republican Party should accept new ideas, including the much-criticized suggestion by Democrats that taxes be allowed to go up on the wealthy.

"It won't kill the country if we raise taxes a little bit on millionaires," he said on "Fox News Sunday." "It really won't, I don't think. I don't really understand why Republicans don't take Obama's offer."

"Really? The Republican Party is going to fall on its sword to defend a bunch of millionaires, half of whom voted Democratic and half of whom live in Hollywood and are hostile?" he asked.
Of course, Kristol also tried to sugar-coat this pill for a right-wing audience by painting the millionaires whose taxes would go up, or at least half of them, as Hollywood liberals and Democrats.  But that sort of demagoguery is par for the course.  The really key point is his claim to be baffled about why the Republicans should defend these millionaires' marginal tax rates to the death.

This incident may or may not turn out to be a straw in the wind. but it's worth noting just because it's startling enough to count as a man-bites-dog story.  Whether or not it's a sign that the Congressional Republicans might eventually be willing to back down on this issue remains to be seen.  During the presidential campaign, Kristol was one of many Republican pundits who advised Romney that his refusal to release his tax returns was politically "crazy" ... and Romney ignored them. McConnell, Boehner, and rest of the Congressional Republicans may do the same. Stay tuned ...

—Jeff Weintraub