One of the most difficult, and often painful, experiences a human faces throughout their lifetime is the state of things as they actually exist, rather than as they may appear, are hoped for, or even imagined. A person who cannot, or will not, face reality is fooling themselves and eventually, when they can no longer elude reality, they either accept their situation and face their challenges responsibly, or go completely off the rails and bury themselves in delusion until they become irrelevant to whatever situation they refuse to face in the first place. Republicans have lived in an imaginary world over the past eleven years and avoided the reality that their economic “reality” is illusory at best and an abject failure at worst. Now, after losing an election to the President who campaigned on ending Republican gifts to the wealthiest Americans, the GOP will have to face the reality that the American people, and the country’s economic health, demands that the wealthy lose their lower tax rates. Instead of accepting their situation and acting responsibly, Republicans are going off the rails and heading toward irrelevance.
When Speaker of the House John Boehner proposed a counter offer to the President’s plan to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff, he was obviously disabused of the reality that his proposal was precisely the plan that cost Willard Romney dearly in the general election. In fact, one could say that realistically, the list of spending cuts and alleged revenue increases was hardly a counter offer and more in line with the vagaries Romney attempted to sell the voters during the campaign. Whether or not Republicans like the President’s proposal, at least there were relatively specific tax measures and reductions in Medicare spending that warrant a closer analysis. Boehner’s offer was, at best, a list of figures attached to nebulous descriptions that left one wondering what things like health savings, mandatory savings, other discretionary savings, entitlement scale downs, and tax reform without increases meant. Chances are, even Republicans are unaware of what all the so-called “savings” are; regardless, it was not a real proposal or a counter offer. However, it certainly garnered outrage and criticism from conservatives who all but said Boehner was doing the President’s bidding.
If Boehner’s proposal avoids reality, then his conservative and Republican critics exist in a fantasy land where the concept of tax increases, or closing loopholes, represent the end of humanity. The Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity said, “Boehner’s deal leaves conservatives wanting,” and the Heritage Foundation claimed Boehner is “asking Republicans to go back on their promise to never raise taxes,” and Senator Jim DeMint said, “Speaker Boehner’s $880 billion tax hike will destroy American jobs and allow politicians to spend even more while not reducing the deficit by a single penny.” It is almost like the Republican establishment exists in a world where voters did not reject Republican’s economic assaults on the poor, middle class, and the elderly to protect the wealthy’s Bush-era tax cuts. Despite voters’ rejection of Republican’s adherence to tax cuts for the rich, they are clinging to them with their political lives and pushing severe austerity that has other nations laughing and predicting Republican proposals will destroy the fragile recovery and send the economy into deep recession.
German newspapers compare the Republican proposals to “Greece’s economic problems and the resulting austerity packages it passed that plunged the country into five straight years of recession. Germany, Europe and the world are hoping that the same fate is not in store for the U.S.” The German papers are reiterating what economist Paul Krugman has been arguing that “Greece should teach us that overly rapid deficit reduction during a period of economic weakness is a disastrous idea.” Another paper claimed “balking at the President’s proposals is another way of saying Republicans are hypocrites and using the fiscal cliff to start an austerity crisis and deep recession.” In England, a financial expert editorialized that “Mr. Obama proposed a $1.6 trillion rise in tax revenues, and $400 billion in chiefly Medicare cuts as well as making increases in the sovereign debt ceiling automatic. It was a strong opening bid, and the Republicans need to think hard about their response and instead of playing chicken, Republicans should try governing.” The overwhelming consensus is that Republican intransigence is creating a crisis because of their institutional dysfunction that will damage the economy and make the American people pay the price.
Republicans are going to have to face the reality that the wealthy are going to see their tax rates increase whether they like it or not. Either they accept, and try to work with, the President’s proposal and let the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire and extend tax cuts for 98% of the people, or the economy goes over the fiscal cliff and all the Bush cuts expire, including the wealthy’s. Boehner may have thought his reducing tax rates and “closing loopholes” would satisfy the President, but for two years Obama has pledged he will not allow Republicans to hold the middle class hostage again over tax cuts for the wealthy. Remember, when Republicans passed the wealthy’s tax cuts, they intended for them to sunset after ten years, and instead of honoring their own legislation, they are fantasizing that Democrats and the President will cave and perpetually extend, and reduce, tax rates for the richest Americans.
The GOP’s dream of never-ending tax cuts for the rich is coming to an end and it is none too soon. The Bush-era tax cuts were never paid for, and after eleven long years they are still going on the nation’s credit card that no amount of closing loopholes or severe austerity will reduce. Boehner is going to have to face his conservative critics and remind them that President Obama won re-election on the promise of making the wealthy pay higher taxes, and that deficit reduction is not going to be on the backs of the poor, middle class, and elderly while the wealthiest 2% continue benefiting from Republican’s who will either face reality and accept responsibility for their eleven year dream, or fade into irrelevance. It is 2012, and the state of things as they actually exist is that the President, Democrats, and American people will not abide one more day of tax cuts for the rich and whether the economy falls off the fiscal cliff, or Republicans face reality and compromise with the President, America’s nightmare of giving everything to the rich at the expense of the rest of the population is finally within sight whether Republicans see it or not.