The Republicans' smart bet
It's important, as Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson say, to keep in mind the nature of the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts that got us into this mess:
Most reporters have done a lousy job of reminding us of this background. Why were the tax cuts of 2001 scheduled to expire? Because the Bush administration could not convince enough Senators back then that they were affordable, even at a time of record budget surpluses. The GOP's gamble was that when the tax cuts were due to expire, they would be extended because too many in Washington would be afraid to "raise taxes."
Many Democrats probably thought budgetary realities would make this hat trick hard to pull off. But the Democratic message, if you can call it that, is muddled and complex: one part fiscal rectitude, one part populism -- and lacking any clear alternative vision for the hundreds of billions that Republicans want to give to the rich. And it's made even less coherent by the non-trivial number of congressional Democrats who have basically accepted the GOP position.
Republicans, by contrast, bet on the power of a simple, unified message no matter how divorced from economic reality: failing to extend tax cuts skewed to the rich was to "raise taxes" on "ordinary Americans." And they bet that when the time came for a vote, nobody would remember how we got in this mess in the first place. For now, that bet has paid off -- big time.
For a longer version of this story with more boring details about Senate procedure, head here.
| December 10, 2010; 9:08 AM ET
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