Don't Believe the Fiscal Cliff Hype

For the past week, GOP lawmakers have been falling over themselves to move away from Grover Norquist, pied piper of low tax rates on rich people (see Daily Meme. Tennessee Senator Bob Corker said that he was not “obligated on the pledge,” and Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss followed suit, telling a local TV station that he cares “more about his country” than a “20-year-old pledge.” Likewise, South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham declared that he would violate his promise for the good of the country, only if Democrats will "do entitlement reform."

On the face of it, this is both high-minded and politically realistic. The Norquist pledge is a bad idea; it hampers legislators as they attempt to solve a series of fiscal problems. And while it’s old news at this point, it is true that President Obama won re-election, and on a message of higher taxes, no less! You could read these statements as a declaration that some Republicans, at least, are ready to work with the president.

Unfortunately, you’d be wrong. As loud as Republicans have been about bucking the Norquist pledge, none have actually signaled support for higher tax rates on the rich. Instead, they’ve turned the conversation toward closing loopholes as a way of raising revenue. And in the case of Lindsay Graham, the precondition for cooperation is for Democrats to support Bush-era tax rates!

This is the opposite of cooperation, and a sign that Republicans are still committed to keeping tax rates low on the rich. The only difference, now, is that they’ve decided to stay quiet about it.

So They Say

"I know that it’s unattractive and bad form to say 'I told you so' when one’s advice was ignored yet ultimately proved correct. But in the wake of the Republican election debacle, it’s essential that conservatives undertake a clear-eyed assessment of who on their side was right and who was wrong. ... Honest to God, I am not a liberal or a Democrat. But these days, they are the only people who will listen to me."

Bruce Bartlett, writing in The American Conservative

Daily Meme: Read My Lips, No More Norquist

  • Have you heard? Grover Norquist, whose tax pledge is the iron curtain Republican lawmakers just can't escape from, is quite confident that the fiscal cliff won't cause any of his disciples to fall off his high horse.
  • Republican lawmakers beg to differ. Senator Bob Corker said today he's "not obligated on the pledge" and is floating a non-Norquist-approved pledge of his own.
  • Lindsay Graham and Saxby Chambliss both said they were A-OK with breaking the pledge if it means a compromise could be reached. Even Eric Cantor is downplaying its importance!
  • Tom Coburn, John McCain, and Peter King also joined the revolution
  • Meanwhile, Americans for Tax Reform now has all these contrarians on their Legislators Most Wanted list. Come 2014, Norquist is going after the disobedient.
  • And despite the whispers of rebellion, in truth, Norquist still has a pretty strong hold on the Republican front in the House, including John Boehner.
  • In short, as Hendrick Hertzberg puts it, "it would be unwise to bet the farm on the proposition that the G.O.P. will edge away from nihilist obstructionism anytime soon."

What We're Writing

  • Matthew Duss writes that the cease-fire in Gaza means nothing if it doesn’t pave the way to the end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
  • Jamelle Bouie asks, do Republicans have a Southern problem?


What We're Reading

  • Jason Marks memo to the environmental movement: "When we look more like a Romney-Ryan election night gathering than an Obama-Biden election night gathering, we’re in trouble."
  • Democrats have caught the super PAC bug, and are already getting excited about 2014.
  • With all his elections in the rear-view mirror, Obama seems poised to use his campaigning acumen, as well as the now-bored Obama for America organization, in the fiscal-cliff fight.
  • Benjamin Wallace-Wells asks, what happens now that the war on drugs lost?
  • You know who would have hated Citizens UnitedJulius Caesar.
  • Fox News seems to have evolved on the issue of immigration. How convenient.
  • TNR collected its best stories from Election 2012, offering a perfect opportunity to slow down and think about what exactly happened in this crazy year.



Poll of the Day

Obama won a slightly smaller margin of the youth vote than in 2008 according to a new Pew survey, a fall from a 66 percent share of voters under 30 to 60 percent, but the fact that he swept the youth vote in all battleground states, and they turned out in similar numbers to the last presidential election means that they were still an invaluable part of his victory. Young voters are also becoming more diverse—only 58 percent white compared to the 76 percent of 30+ voters—which means the Democratic coalition seems to have a foothold on future elections if demographic voting patterns hold steady.

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