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ThePlumLIneGS whorunsgov plumline
Posted at 12:34 PM ET, 07/06/2011

Our surreal debate over taxing the rich

So it’s come to this. Republican opposition to any kind of revenue increase as part of the deficit deal has grown so implacable that Dems will now hold a Senate vote tomorrow on the basic idea that millionaires and billionaires should help contribute to fixing our deficit.

It’s not a vote on any specific proposal to hike taxes or end tax breaks. Rather, it’s a vote that puts each Senator on record on the general question of whether the rich should sacrifice in sevice of deficit reduction.

According to a Dem leadership aide, Senate Democrats have decided, as expected, to proceed with a vote tomorrow on a resolution that would declare that it is the “sense of the senate” that those who make $1 million or more per year should “make a more meaningful contribution to the deficit reduction effort.”

The vote — a cloture motion on the question of whether to proceed to an up-or-down vote on this resolution — is designed to put Repubicans on the spot. The idea is to force GOPers to go on the record choosing between declaring general support for more sacrifice from the wealthy — which in theory could strengthen Dem leverage in the talks — or reveal that they’re ideologically hostile to the notion that the rich should sacrifice anything to fix our fiscal mess. Dem Senators are holding a presser this afternoon to push the issue.

That this vote is happening at all perfectly captures just how surreal this debate has become. Democrats have agreed to over $1 trillion in spending cuts, and have reportedly agreed to tens of billions in Medicare cuts as part of that package. The American people have declared in poll after poll after poll that they think the deficit should be addressed through a combination of spending cuts and tax hikes. Yet Republicans are simply refusing to entertain the possibility of any revenue increases of any kind — to the point where even conservative columnists like David Brooks are growing seriously alarmed by the anti-tax fanaticism that’s on display.

The notion that the wealthy should sacrifice anything at all in the way of higher taxes or revenues is now such a nonstarter that Dems are finding themselves forced to hold a vote on the general concept that the rich should contribute something “meaningful” to deficit reduction.

This is insane.

Dems are hoping this move puts Republicans on the spot when the resolution is debated on the floor, and it will certainly be interesting to see how Republicans vote on it and how they defend it if they vote No.

I don’t know if the Dem strategy will work, but I do know that this vote reveals that this debate ran off the rails a long time ago.

UPDATE: Senator Debbie Stabenow, a prime mover of this initiative, sends over this comment:

“The differences in this debate could not be clearer. Republicans want to end Medicare and target the middle class while protecting millionaires and billionaires. We are focused on cutting wasteful spending and ending special treatment for the wealthy elite and the well-connected. That’s what this debate is all about.”

By  |  12:34 PM ET, 07/06/2011

 
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