Published February 19, 2013
“[Do Republicans] protect investments in education, health care and national defense or do they continue to prioritize and protect tax loopholes that benefit the very few at the expense of middle and working class Americans?”
-- White House statement on pending, automatic spending cuts.
Would Republicans rather your house burn down than raise taxes on rich people?
Today, president Obama is certainly suggesting that they would. He is appearing with firefighters and other first responders to renew his call for tax hikes on top earners to offset part of automatic spending cuts set to kick in two weeks hence.
Obama’s argument is that Janet Napolitano and her team at the Department of Homeland Security will have no choice but to cut off subsidies for local fire departments once the cuts take effect, forcing layoffs at firehouses.
Now, Napolitano presumably could cut other parts of her agency, ammunition orders, for instance. But it wouldn’t be so dramatic for the president to pose with a case of shotgun shells as it would to appear with people who run into burning buildings for a living.
Taxes went up for every American worker this year, and Obama won a special targeted tax rate hike on high-income households. The size of the targeted tax hike that Obama spent most of post-election political capital on was about the same size as what will be vacuumed out of federal spending this year: about $85 billion.
While Obama argued that the economy was strong enough to weather the tax hikes, he says that it cannot endure spending reductions of the same size. In fact, he says more taxes would be preferable to any reduction in federal outlays. The president, after all, would like to see yet more taxes to finance yet more spending.
The emergency personnel with the president today are the embodiment of Obama’s preferred form of economic stimulus: government workers (who, not coincidentally, are the most important part of his political base).
But aside from the economic argument, Obama is warning that unless Republicans agree to more taxes, people will die. Obama warns of understaffed fire departments, furloughed food inspectors and vacancies in the agency that tracks loose nuclear material. He says he is for having the wealthy pay “their fair share” while Republicans, must prefer raging infernos, tainted food and radioactive waste.
Bipartisan budget mavens Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson have put on offer today an updated version of their debt reduction plan. It’s a broad-spectrum fiscal reform that includes cuts, taxes and changes to entitlement programs.
This is the kind of plan that moderates have been begging for. Rather than crashing over fiscal cliff after fiscal cliff, Simpson and Bowles are proposing a decade-long plan to set things on a sustainable course.
Obama, though, torpedoed any hope of a big plan with his tax January tax hikes. Obama had the chance to do what Simpson and Bowles propose when House Speaker John Boehner came to him with an offer of higher taxes through lower deductions for the rich.
Obama flatly refused, insisting on a rate hike, and now wants the deduction money. This exhausted the Republican capacity for compromise on their ideological core issue of keeping tax rates low.
But Obama bets that if he frightens voters with firefighter layoffs, etc., Republicans can be shamed into raising taxes again or at least set themselves up for a midterm defeat.
And Now, A Word From Charles
“The Keystone issue is the most open and shut case I have ever seen. Not only will it reduce our dependence on Hugo Chavez, in the Middle East, we would get it from Canada, and not only would it be an insult if we sort of slam the door on Canada, our closest ally, but refusing the pipeline, or not building it would have zero effect on the environment.”
-- Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”
Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News, and his POWER PLAY column appears Monday-Friday on FoxNews.com. Catch Chris Live online daily at 11:30amET at http:live.foxnews.com.