One man’s tax cut is another man’s tax increase.
Make no mistake: This proposal isn’t going anywhere legislatively before the election. (Republicans were quick to remind voters that Obama already pushed virtually this same proposal earlier this year.) It is a purely political gambit by the President designed to force Republicans to defend what the White House believes is an untenable position: preserving tax cuts for the wealthiest among us.
“Many members of the other party believe that prosperity comes from the top down, so that if we spend trillions more on tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, that that will somehow unleash jobs and economic growth,” Obama said in (re)announcing the proposal. “I disagree. I think they’re wrong.”
Republicans, of course, disagree. Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney called Obama’s proposal a “massive tax increase” in a statement released this morning.
This is a messaging war with both sides absolutely convinced they have the political right of it. So, who does? Here’s a look at their two messages — as interpreted by the Fix. You make the call.
* Democratic message: Time and again Romney and Republicans have proven that they care more about protecting their rich friends and donors than looking out for the American public.
All tax cuts are not created equally — and people understand that. Almost seven in ten people in a Washington Post/Bloomberg poll last fall said they supported raising taxes on people making $250,000 or above. Even a majority of Republicans — 54 percent — supported raising taxes on those making $250,000 or more.
Seven in ten people (and a majority of Republicans!) agree on almost nothing in this political day and age. Republicans are whistling past the political graveyard if they think they can just hide behind the “tax and spend liberal” attack on President Obama.
It won’t work. This isn’t about pushing an ideology or a view of government. It’s about showing middle class voters that there is only one candidate (and one party) who understands their struggles and their values. Refusing to act on this proposal just reaffirms for most voters everything they already think they know — and don’t like — about Romney and his party.
* Republican message: People know politics when they see it. Less than a week after (another) dismal jobs report, Obama is trying to change the subject with a warmed-over proposal that, by the way, raises taxes.
The biggest complaint/fear/worry with this president among undecided voters is that he thinks taking more of your money and growing government is the answer to all of the problems the country is facing.
All this announcement does is affirm to those folks that Obama wants to raise taxes. And, if he wants to raise them on some people, what’s to stop him from raising them on everyone if the economy doesn’t get better?
People get it — and they know that tax increases alone aren’t going to solve our problems. Just four percent — yes, four — of people in a Post-ABC poll last year said that increasing taxes was the best way to reduce the deficit. Eight times that number (!) — 32 percent — said that cutting spending was the best path to deficit reduction.
Take an even bigger step back. When the political conversation is about taxes, we win. The public just trusts us more with their money and making sure they get to keep as much of it as possible. A tax fight is a home game for us.
Given that there is a zero percent chance that President Obama’s tax proposal will become law before this fall, what the debate to come will test is which side can make a more convincing argument to that sliver of undecided voters who will almost certainly decide the election.