Rachel Maddow popped by Chris Hayes’ new MSNBC program this morning, and explained the winning values equation behind raising taxes on the rich.
Here is the video from MSNBC:
Hayes asked Maddow about the Buffett Rule, and she said, “The president has been talking about tax issues in values terms on the stump for the last couple of weeks, and that’s exactly what progressives have been telling him to do for a very long time. To say you know tax policy in itself is something that Republicans have dominated on by sort of demagoguing the issue. I mean from my perspective as a liberal it seems like they have been demagoguing the issues talking about every tax issue in the world as if it is going to kill jobs and hurt normal people, even when you are only talking about tax issues for the wealthiest people in the country. That’s part of how we got the Bush tax cuts, and Bush tax cuts two which came in the middle of two wars, and so to hear the president making a case that it is a values issues, and a values issue that most Americans ally themselves with, this idea of basic fairness. That is exactly the way they have tailored this role.”
Hayes talked about the cringe worthy elements of people like Obama pointing out how they aren’t like the rest of America when it comes to taxes, and Maddow said, “There is the same sort of cringe factor with blank ought to pay higher taxes. Blank isn’t paying enough. That sort of argument has the same sort of cringe worthy feeling I think even for people who are in the middle class and the person who’s being talked about not paying enough is somebody who is very wealthy. Even the Warren Buffett argument you know my secretary pays a higher tax rate than I do, there is something about this idea that somebody isn’t paying enough taxes doesn’t sound right. However if you talk to Americans about the idea that everybody ought to pay their fair share that rich people shouldn’t pay less just because they’re rich people, that is a values issue. That is not a tax issue, and that is something on which I think they’re going to get a lot of support.”
Chris Hayes said the point of this proposal is to heighten the contradictions between the two parties, not pass legislation. Rachel Maddow responded by adding that Democrats need to make Republicans defend why the rich shouldn’t pay their fair share, “Make House Republicans say you know what? The wealthiest people shouldn’t pay as much as middle class people. Why? Make that argument. Make them argue in those terms. It’s a framing argument basically.”
Hayes and Maddow closed this area of discussion by talking about the great Republican myth of job creators.
The formula is simple and it is a winner for Democrats. Make the Republicans defend why the rich should not pay their fair share. Obama first started making this argument during the debate over extending the Bush tax cuts, but had to abandon it when Republicans threatened to cut off unemployment benefits for 1 million American families over the holidays. Now that the Republicans have no hostages left to take, Obama has been able to go on the offensive and put Republicans back on their heels.
Poll after poll shows that increasing taxes on the rich is a huge, huge, huge winner politically for Democrats, and Rachel Maddow perfectly explained the equation, this isn’t about the taxes themselves but the value of fairness. By equating taxes to fairness, Democrats are shifting the frame of the tax discussion.
For more than 30 years, Republicans have successfully sold the message that all taxes are unfair, but in their ideological pivot to the far right, they have taken their position too far. In a bad economy, an argument that those who have the most should pay the least is never going to be popular. The Republican position has also been doomed by a decade’s worth of tax cuts for the rich that have not boosted the economy and created jobs.
The job creators myth is nothing more than a justification for a policy of shifting the tax burden of those who have the most on to those who have the least. It’s not fair, and it is this fairness argument that is the Achilles heel of the Republican tax position as we head into 2012.
Obama’s announcement tomorrow is about offering the American people a choice for the future of this country. Everyone knows this idea will never pass the Republican House. The point is to highlight the contrasts between the two parties, so that voters can choose whether or not they want to live in America where Social Security and Medicare are eliminated, and the rich are never required to pay their fair share, or a nation that honors its entitlement promises and still values fairness and equality.
This is the choice that Barack Obama and the Democratic Party intend to offer voters in November 2012.