After many months of fighting over tax and debt negotiations with Republicans in 2011, President Obama and Democratic allies in Congress have found common ground on an “economic fairness” agenda that has emerged as the single, most unifying Democratic idea of the election season. In its simplest form, it says millionaires should pay more taxes.
In a tight Wisconsin Senate race, the likely Democratic nominee is sponsoring legislation to impose a mandatory minimum tax of at least 30 percent on millionaires. In a newly drawn House district near Canton, Democratic Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Ohio) has taken to calling her wealthy businessman opponent a “tax evader millionaire.”
And in Massachusetts, Democrat Elizabeth Warren’s latest volley against the wealthy came over the weekend as she called for the resignation of JPMorgan’s CEO, Jamie Dimon, after revelations that its risky investments just cost the financial firm more than $2 billion.
“We’re on the same page,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who spent a congressional recess in early May preaching the tax equity message at three different stops and who campaigned with Obama during his election kick-off in his crucial home swing state. “We’re gonna be with him, and he’s going to be with us.”
That is a striking development given how scattered the party remains on some issues. The Senate races in Virginia and Indiana are perfect examples. There will be no incumbents on the ballot in the fall, and the outcome of those races will be crucial to which party controls the Senate next year. The Democratic nominees in both those races, former Virginia governor Tim Kaine and Rep. Joe Donnelly (Ind.), have not fully embraced Obama’s support for same-sex marriage and have had to explain their differences with the president in recent days.
But the Democratic hope is that the fall elections will be almost entirely focused on economic issues, and they believe that requiring millionaires to contribute a larger share to help pay down the federal debt has put them on unusually strong footing in tough economic times.
Republicans say they will return fire in the “fairness war” by focusing on job growth, of the lack of it. Republicans contend the Obama administration’s policies created an unfair marketplace and is leaving an unfair amount of debt for the next generation. GOP leaders pounced on the most recent employment report, which showed just 115,000 jobs gained last month in the private sector. House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) cited the report as “more evidence President Obama’s policies aren’t working for families and small businesses.”
The tax fight flared anew last week as Senate Republicans blocked legislation to keep interest rates on student loans low — objecting to the Democratic proposal to finance the new spending by closing what they call a tax loophole for millionaire doctors, lawyers and other wealthy professionals. Every Democrat supported the measure and the White House has been trumpeting the student loan problem across the country.