Most human beings have experienced the phenomenon of having the strong sensation that an event currently being experienced had been experienced in the past, and the French term, déjà vu, means something that is already seen. After the Democratic victory in Tuesday’s general election, one imagined there would be a grace period in which Republicans would allow Democrats to relish their victory while Republicans licked their wounded pride, but instead, leaders in the House and Senate issued statements that gave the appearance Republicans had won the election handily and put them in control of the government. Listening to Republican congressional leaders dictate compromise terms for President Obama to address the so-called fiscal cliff approaching in January gave any American with a memory an instantaneous feeling of déjà vu and it portends a continuation of the legislative standstill America suffered over the past four years.
Senate Minority Leader McConnell, the man who championed partisan gridlock during the President’s first term after vowing to prioritize making Obama a one-term president symbolized the Republican goal of precipitating suffering in order to claim electoral victory and unseat President Obama. McConnell commented on President Obama’s victory by claiming voters “gave President Obama a second chance to fix the problems he failed to solve during his first four years in office,” and said he hoped the President would “propose solutions that actually have a chance of passing Republican muster by stepping up to the plate and deliver in a way that he did not in his first four years in office.” Translation; follow Republican orders and propose GOP policies, and it was a clear indication Republicans have no interest in working with the President unless he acquiesces to Republican demands of gutting so-called entitlement programs and cutting taxes for the wealthy.
House Speaker Boehner congratulated the President and said, “If there is a mandate, it is a mandate for both parties to find common ground and take steps together to help our economy grow and create jobs, which is critical to solving our debt,” but in a news conference Wednesday morning he made it clear he had little intention of “taking steps together” or finding common ground to keep the President’s economic recovery moving forward. Boehner’s formula for bipartisanship was making it crystal clear that his vision for additional revenue includes a major overhaul of entitlements, eliminating middle class tax deductions, and reducing income tax rates for the rich from where it is now at 35 percent. Boehner claimed that additional revenue would come from economic growth that would be fueled by a simpler tax code, and if his formula sounds familiar it is no surprise because for the past three months Willard Romney and Paul Ryan proposed the same grand tax plan that Americans soundly rejected on Election Day. Boehner admitted he had no intention on compromising saying, “I’m not suggesting we compromise on our principles, but I am suggesting we commit ourselves to creating an atmosphere where we can see common ground when it exists and seize it.” Over the past four years common ground in Republican parlance is obstructing the President unless he follows Republican directions and makes Draconian cuts to safety nets and lowers taxes on the rich.
Democratic leaders and President Obama have said tax reform that lowers tax rates across the board hurts the middle class by trimming vital tax benefits like the home mortgage deduction, child tax credit, college tuition, and health insurance deduction, and would not raise enough taxes to meaningfully reduce the deficit. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid underscored the President’s contention that tax rates on the rich must be increased saying “the vast majority of Americans, including rich people” support that and the results of the election bear out Reid’s contention. Republicans still labor under the fallacious assumption that cutting taxes on the wealthy increases revenue in stark contrast to a report Senate Republicans have been desperate to conceal from voters.
In September, the Congressional Research Service released a report on marginal tax rates and the economy that noted there was no relationship between high tax rates and growth, productivity, income inequality, or other key economic indicators. The report certainly did not expose any new information, but it did disprove the perpetual Republican contention that tax cuts for the rich increases revenue and improves the economy. However, Republicans are demanding that President Obama and Democrats “compromise” in a spirit of bipartisanship by cutting taxes for the wealthy while gutting Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security as well as eliminate tax exemptions for the middle class. McConnell said that unless President Obama “wants to move to the political center,” there was little hope for the parties to work together.
For the President’s entire term he has governed from the center and Republicans obstructed every proposed compromise in their attempt to “make President Obama a one-term president.” Despite the President’s attempt to work with Republicans, unless he gives them everything they want, they have been intransigent on the economy and especially regarding tax cuts for the wealthy. Republicans are going to have to meet the President halfway, and he said on the campaign trail that he will compromise on budget cuts, but he was also very clear that very high income earners will have to go back to paying what they were during the Clinton Administration, and the American people overwhelmingly supported him on election day.
Apparently the Republicans did not get the message from voters that they support the President’s economic agenda and rejected Romney/Ryan’s tax plan that Republicans are proposing as a compromise. They also cannot accept the fact that the President did not win the election because he failed in his first term, but because he promised to continue growing the economy and reducing the deficit through a balanced approach and not cutting taxes for the wealthy or raising taxes on the middle class, slashing social safety nets, and making deep cuts to so-called entitlement programs. For the record, Social Security and Medicare are not entitlement programs when they are funded by worker contributions, and in Social Security’s case, does not take one penny from the government.
Republicans did not win the White House, or the Senate, and yet their concept of compromise and bipartisanship is dictating terms to the President and Democrats. It is a repeat of the past four years and definitely not what the American people voted for on Tuesday. They also did not vote for the Romney/Ryan tax plan and yet that is Republican’s offer and it portends more obstruction and gridlock that earned America its first credit downgrade and retarded economic growth and job creation.
McConnell said President Obama must meet Republicans in the political center, and that unless he makes more concessions they will not “do the work the people sent us here to do,” but the people did not send Republicans to dictate the terms of compromise and until the GOP acknowledges they did not win the election, Washington will remain at a standstill, and it really makes no sense because keeping the economy anemic will not make President Obama a one-term President any longer making one wonder if Republicans really do want to take America into a deeper recession than they did in 2008. Hopefully, Americans will not experience déjà vu as they watch Republicans crash the economy again by protecting the wealthy’s tax cuts and failing to compromise.