Do the Republicans have the ability to make a stand only on keeping down the taxes for all who make more than $250,000? Is that a viable position? Is that what this fiscal cliff is coming down to?
If you parsed the rhetoric you would think so. There doesn't seem to be any real gulf with the huge compromises that have to be made about the defense budget, the Social Security tax break, the alternative minimum tax, the extended unemployment benefits and even the defense budget. There's no distance between the two sides on holding taxes down for those who make less than $250,000. It just seems like the Republicans are willing to go to their grave defending the right of the wealthiest not to pay higher taxes -- something that is a deal-breaker for President Obama, as reiterated by his minion Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on the talk shows this weekend.
You would think that, with all that is at stake here, this measure could be agreed upon. I mean, the rest of the cliff jump is far more important to the U.S. economy to have it be sacrificed on a no-tax-increase policy, no matter what position. That's particularly so after that position -- which was well-known to the electorate -- held no water in the latest election. The Republican candidate was only able to pick up a few states over the other one, even despite the economy being structurally unable to produce enough jobs not to worry about going back into recession.
Yet, when you go through the documents for this issue, as I do for my Wall of Shame nominations, it is by far the most important sticking point.
I think that's one of the reasons there is so much hope a deal could be done. Logically this one cohort, which could bring in $40 billion -- the smallest portion of the amount of money that would be raised by the tax increases that are coming -- couldn't and shouldn't be able to trigger a U.S. recession via fiscal cliff. Logically at least a phase-in could be agreed to, and the Republicans aren't going to have to give up much, given that they are the minority party. You would think that at least this gives them a terrific position to run on in 2014, if they think it is terrific: We kept taxes down even for the richest. If they think they can turn the tide in the blue states with that, and if the Tea Party thinks it can stay alive claiming that it kept rates down, then the U.S. will go over the cliff, plain and simple.
So, that's the sticking point to watch. It's not the defense budget, or the employment, benefits, or the social security exemption, or the taxes for the middle class or the aversion of the Alternative Minimum Tax for millions.
It's all about taxing the rich, and their capital gains and their dividend income and pleasing or displeasing the wealthiest people in the country.
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