The GOP after Dunkirk
At the Potsdam Conference with Harry Truman and Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill learned that the voters of the nation he had led for five years through World War II had just voted to throw him out of office.
“It may well be a blessing in disguise,” said his wife, Clementine.
“At the moment, it seems quite effectively disguised,” replied Churchill.
Republicans must feel that way today. For they have survived their own Dunkirk.
That Republicans suffered a rout, as the British did with the fall of France and the evacuation at Dunkirk in 1940, is undeniable.
The party that has blocked tax increases since George H.W. Bush agreed to raise Ronald Reagan's top rate of 28 percent to 35 percent just signed on to one of the largest tax increases in history.
Payroll taxes on working Americans will rise by a third, from 4.2 percent of wages and salaries to 6.2 percent. For couples earning $450,000, the tax rate rises from 15 to 20 percent on dividends and capital gains, and from 35 to 39.6 percent on ordinary income. The death tax will rise from 35 to 40 percent on estates over $5 million.
ObamaCare will push those rates up further. And now we learn the bill was stuffed with tax breaks for windmills, NASCAR owners and Hollywood.
Why did Republicans go along?
Had they not done so, President Obama would have postured as the tax-cutting savior of the middle class by proposing to restore the Bush tax cuts for every couple earning less than $250,000.
The GOP defense: We took this rotten deal to prevent a worse one. And what, if any, is the “blessing in disguise”?
Obama has no more leverage. The Bush tax cuts for the 98 percent are now permanent. To block further tax hikes, all the House need do, from now to 2017, is stand united and just say no.
Obama is thus almost certainly staring at four more trillion-dollar deficits to match the last four, and he has no leverage to force Republicans to provide him with new revenue.
John Boehner and the Republicans got their clocks cleaned in these negotiations because they believed the president was dealing in good faith. But the ideology and the interests of the Democratic Party dictate not only preserving federal programs but expanding the number of beneficiaries, already near 100 million.
For the larger the number of beneficiaries, the larger the bloc of voters for the party of government and the greater the opposition to any who would dare to cut government.
The question for Republicans is what they do now, besides say no to new taxes.
Most Democrats are not going to agree to freeze or cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, ObamaCare, food stamps, federal aid to education, welfare or unemployment checks. These are the reason the Democratic Party exists.
As for the Republicans, is it wise to propose cuts in Social Security and Medicare, upon which Republican seniors depend, when they know for certain Democrats will reject those cuts and take credit for doing so?
With the GOP splintering, with Democrats running the Senate and White House, conservatives must realize: They cannot make policy.
Let the Democrats take the lead, drive the car, propose the tax hikes, refuse to make the spending cuts and answer for where we are in 2016, because right now, it looks as though we are headed for an even bigger cliff.
Pat Buchanan is the author of “Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?”
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