Human perception is based on identifying, organizing, and interpreting information accurately, and only delusional people with strongly held convictions hold beliefs in spite of superior evidence to the contrary. On a basic level, anyone asserting that a statement or allegation is not true despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary suffers from the defense mechanism known as denial because the truth is too uncomfortable to accept. There are different types of denial, and after President Obama won re-election last week, Republicans expressed minimization and simple denial to assuage the damage to their long-held certainty that Americans believe cutting taxes for the wealthy will reduce the deficit, create jobs, and enrich the poor and middle class.
Republicans and their surrogates suffer from minimization denial because although they admit the President won a decisive victory against Willard Romney, they deny the people were serious that the notion of cutting taxes for the wealthy was a horrible idea that put the economy at great risk and would increase the deficit by reducing revenues. President Obama certainly got the people’s message and went on the offensive promising to veto any deal extending Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy while at the same time telling Republicans to keep reduced rates for 98% of Americans and 97% of small businesses. Still, Republicans doubled-down on their trickle down tax scam by stating in no uncertain terms that they would not, under any condition, raise taxes on the rich to Clinton-era rates and, in fact, will reduce them further to reward their wealthy donors.
The problem with denial is it leads to inane reflexive statements and actions that paint deniers into a corner without a means of escape and usually results in disastrous results. Within a week of the election, Republicans put themselves into a corner and appear content to let the economy and the people suffer because they cannot accept that the people support raising taxes on the wealthy. Republican leaders deluded themselves all week that voters re-elected President Obama so he would put Willard Romney’s tax plan into effect and none were as adamant as Grover Norquist.
Norquist claimed the President won re-election because he convinced voters Willard Romney was a “poopy head” and although Romney fits that description, it belies why the President won the election. Norquist said, “But he didn’t make the case that we should have higher taxes, he sounded like the opposite.” Norquist suffers from simple denial because the President said very clearly throughout the debate that wealthy Americans earning more than $250,000 should pay more in taxes, and exit polls showed broad support for raising taxes on the wealthiest 2% of Americans. In fact, for the past three-and-a-half years the President advocated raising taxes on the rich and the public has consistently supported the idea that was reflected in the election results. However, Norquist is not an elected official and has no voice or vote in raising taxes but Republican leaders in the House and Senate do and they share his delusion.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell suffered two crushing defeats in the election in not preventing President Obama from earning a second term and not taking control of the Senate, so perhaps his contention that Republicans will not agree to raise taxes on the rich is based in utter disappointment. Three days after the election McConnell said, “I wasn’t sent to Washington to raise anybody’s taxes and this election doesn’t change my principles.” McConnell promised he was unwilling to raise taxes at all to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff and promised that if people think Tuesday’s results mean Republicans in Washington are going to “roll over and agree to demands that we hike tax rates before the end of the year. I’m here to tell them there is no truth to that notion whatsoever.” McConnell’s attitude mirrors Republican intransigence that pushed Congress to agree to the fiscal cliff in the first place, and coupled with his promise to use hostage taking as a bargaining tool all but guarantees another economic crisis to protect the wealthiest 2% of income earners.
Speaker of the House John Boehner expressed a willingness to work with the President right after the election, but he quickly attached qualifiers that portend another standoff to avoid following the will of the people. Boehner said, “The Republican majority in the House stands ready to work with you to do what’s best for our country; that is the will of the people and we answer to them.” However, Boehner continued that following the people’s will on raising the wealthy’s taxes was not an option Republicans were willing to concede. Boehner parroted Willard Romney’s campaign promises and asked the question, “Does the increased revenue come from government taking a larger share of what the American people earn through higher tax rates? Or does it come as the byproduct of a growing economy, energized by a simpler, cleaner, fairer tax code, with fewer loopholes, and lower rates for all?” Boehner also cited a flawed study where he drew a line on taxes identical to Republicans’ failed presidential candidate Willard Romney that claimed tax increases on the rich will have an unbalanced effect on small businesses that has been broadly debunked; especially since only 3% of small businesses file as individuals and exceeds the $250,000 threshold. It is why President Obama claimed preserving Bush-era tax cuts for incomes under $250,000 will help 97% of small businesses.
President Obama wants to keep Bush-era rates for 98% of taxpayers, and since the Senate already passed a plan to extend middle-class tax cuts, House Republicans have a choice to either pass the Senate plan in the lame duck session or wait until the new year. The President does not have to bargain away anything to Republicans, and it is why he has threatened to veto any plan maintaining the wealthy’s rates. Republicans want rich people pay lower taxes, but since they already have substantial income below the top bracket, they will actually benefit massively from the middle-class cuts. The Republican’s master, Grover Norquist, made a philosophical determination that voting for middle class tax cuts without including the wealthy is a vote for higher taxes, but he also opined that President Obama campaigned on reducing taxes, so his ruling is out of the realm of reality.
Republicans cannot possibly be deluded to believe the people, or President Obama, will allow them to hold the economy hostage over raising taxes on the wealthy a measly 4%, but they have shown no willingness to compromise and work with the President. The impending fiscal cliff is the result of Republicans’ unwillingness to take a balanced approach to deficit reduction that led to America’s first credit downgrade in history. McConnell enjoyed holding the economy hostage last year and promised to do again after the election, and he is sending signals that he will fulfill his promise again, but the difference is President Obama is in a position to call Republicans’ bluff.
Republicans can publicly deny voters support raising taxes on the wealthy as much as they want, but they are only fooling themselves because President Obama got the voters message or he would not have promised to veto any extension of Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. The Republicans have been in denial since the President won the White House in 2008, but it is time for them to face the reality, no matter how uncomfortable, that the voters re-elected President Obama last week because he promised to raise taxes on the rich and like it or not, as John Boehner said, they are there “to do the will of the people.”