-- Portion of voters in a new Quinnipiac University poll that said they believed that President Obama’s 2010 health law was “in effect a tax hike.” Only 36 percent disagreed. Support for repealing the law, 49 percent to 43 percent opposed, is essentially the same as in January of 2011.
President Obama has a very complicated argument to make as he works to sell his plan for higher taxes on top earners.
Calling for higher taxes on anyone in an election year during a fresh economic slowdown is tough. Obama and his campaign may be having some success in stoking resentment at the rich in general and Republican Mitt Romney specifically, but when Democrats talk about raising taxes, voters get anxious. It reinforces the most unpopular part of the blue team’s brand: tax-and-spend liberalism, a label that could prove toxic to Obama’s re-election hopes.
The president has tried to soften the blow in his current push for higher taxes by saying that he wants to give a $2,000 tax break to middle-class families next year.
But there is no tax cut. Rather, Obama is offering the one-year delay of a tax increase on middle-income households from current rates, some more than a decade old. If your boss said he was considering cutting your pay to its rate in 2001, but then relented, you wouldn’t call it a raise.
Republicans made Obama’s argument possible because of the sneaky way in which they enacted new tax rates with sunset provisions. Both parties engage in these kinds deceptive practices so as to hide the fiscal consequences of legislation. Democrats famously hid much of the cost of Obama’s 2010 health law by delaying implementation of some very expensive provisions in part to make the 10-year cost look lower.
So while Obama can technically say that he is proposing a “tax cut,” he has to take a circuitous route to get there.
And while Obama has been preaching about the unfairness of a tax code that doesn’t require “millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share,” Republicans have been effective in pointing out that in a lot of cities, $200,000 is far from private jet territory and, more importantly, about the huge number of small businesses on which the increase would fall: nearly a million of them, say GOPers.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wasted no time in daring Senate Democrats to vote on the president’s plan, an effort quickly sidestepped by the blue team because of deep dissention from moderate Democrats about the Obama plan.
The president is trying to whip up support within his party for the rate hike in order to put Republicans on the spot for protecting the Romney rich at the risk of working families. But especially with Romney and the Republicans offering an across-the-board rate cut for all taxpayers, many Democrats feel uneasy about the idea of backing any tax increase.
Obama has been calling for this tax increase for years, even when it has made no political sense to be pitching it. His devotion to it has led him to create a risky political strategy in which he plays Robin Hood: he wants to take money from the rich to give to the middle class in the form of public works projects and enhanced government payrolls.
“I want to raise taxes, but not on you,” has political appeal, but only if voters think that’s true. Voters do believe Obama has increased taxes despite his claims that temporary cuts to payroll taxes make him a tax cutter.
That’s also why the Supreme Court ruling that the provision at the heart of Obama’s already unpopular 2010 health law is another tax increase was so damaging to the president. There are lots of tax increases in the legislation, but the higher taxes on those who don’t purchase insurance falls mostly on middle-income taxpayers.
For Obama to be lugging that around at the same time that he is proposing another tax increase is not at all helpful. It also makes Romney’s simple strategy simpler.
Romney has begun calling Obama “extremely liberal” when he’s talking about Obama’s tax-increase proposal. That’s more and more of what you’ll hear from the GOP. Bill Clinton had retired the “tax-and-spend liberal” label for his party for a while and Obama has worked hard to avoid it, but surveys suggest he may not be able to outrun the charge this time.
This week, the focus has been a lot about whether Romney can avoid a wipeout with minority voters. But as Ron Brownstein points out today at National Journal, the more important story may be Obama’s dire situation with blue-collar white voters.
Obama’s support among white males without college degrees has reached historic lows in several polls. Obama took 39 percent of their votes in 2009, a good number for Democrats – akin to George W. Bush’s 40 percent performance with Hispanics. A strong showing with a difficult group.
In the latest Quinnipiac University poll found Obama polling at 29 percent with white males without college degrees. The Washington Post/ABC News poll clocked the number at 28 percent. In both polls, support was eroding.
It’s hard to see Obama winning re-election if these voters, among the most vulnerable to high unemployment and the weak economy, reject him so vigorously. While Romney can’t afford a wipeout with Hispanic voters, with whom he was polling at 30 percent in the Quinnipiac poll, Obama can’t afford to get skunked blue-collar voters.
Obama’s persistent problems in traditionally blue states like Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania is evidence of how disastrous this problem could be for Obama’s hopes. The president’s poor numbers with independent voters in general likely reflect the deep dissatisfaction of blue-collar voters.
The president believes that he can win back supporters by focusing on a Robin Hood tax increase, but for a president already perceived as too liberal and now weighed down by a sharpened awareness of the taxes in his health law, this looks like it’s playing into Romney’s hands.
And Now, A Word From Charles
KRAUTHAMMER: I agree entirely with Juan, which, of course, is alarming.
BAIER: FOX News Alert. Put up a graphic.
-- 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.