Ok. Deep breaths. We will work our way through this together.
The problem is the “fiscal cliff,” which is a thing invented by Congress to make themselves look like assholes. House Speaker John Boehner (R-The Sun) and Barack Obama have been “negotiating” to try to avoid this cliff, because it is projected to send the country back into a recession. This is regarded by both sides as a Bad Thing, so, logically, both sides have also turned it into a big game of chicken, for Leverage, because, again, they are assholes.
So Boehner and Obama have been yelling back and forth about what to do about taxes. Some days they are so friendly and optimistic, other days Boehner holds grumpy, 50-second press conferences. After lots of fake bullshit “offers” from both sides that everybody freaks out about as soon as they happen, we eventually came to what the REAL offers were, which, surprisingly, were quite different.
Eventually, Boehner said the tax-hike part of the deal should be extending the Bush tax cuts for anyone making less than a million dollars, which, yes, was way too generous for many in his caucus:
[T]he details did not stay secret for long. Reports leaked out Saturday evening that Boehner had agreed to raise taxes on millionaires. That was followed by a more alarming leak Sunday evening that Boehner was also willing to grant Obama another increase in the federal debt limit. Home in their districts, unsuspecting rank-and-file Republicans were stunned.
Stunned. The party that has been screaming about nothing but the federal deficit is stunned that Boehner would consider not extending all the Bush tax cuts, even though they would cost almost a trillion dollars over the next decade and become the single-largest contributing factor to the public debt.
Also probably contributing to their stunnedness: The tax part of Plan B was proposed earlier this year… by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Sassytown). At the time, Boehner said this plan was horrible. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Second Fiddle to Sassytown) explained to Politico this week that Pelosi’s whole proposal was “a political ploy.” In case you forgot how screwed the process has become.
Anyway, “millionaires get a slightly higher rate” was not good enough for Obama, who wanted anyone making more than $400,000 to pay more taxes, because hey, if you’re pulling in $400,000, maybe you don’t necessarily need that extra tax cut that was supposed to expire three years ago.
This, the two sides could not agree on. So here comes Boehner, swooping in with his “Plan B,” to bugger up the works. He wanted to pass it as some kind of backup thing, even though Obama (and the Democrats) didn’t like it, so, like, he could say he tried, or something. This part is still unclear. The Mayans may be involved.
Anyway, The Plan would extend, permanently, the Bush tax cuts for anyone making less than a million bucks a year, like he said he wanted. If you are not freaking out about the deficit, you might be inclined to think maybe this isn’t the worst thing, that maybe “Tax cuts for 99.81 percent of Americans!” sounds nice. If you are thinking this, you have forgotten that the people saying it are the House Republicans.
While tax rates would technically go up for millionaires, analysis by the Tax Policy Institute reveals that 40 percent of the new revenue in Plan B would have come from somewhere else. Can you guess where? You can! The middle class. Oh, and the poor. This is what a “tax cut” looks like now.
And while the Bush cuts would have been renewed, see, the rest of the cuts we’ve had since Obama took office would still expire. Expanded versions of the earned income tax credit and child tax credit, tax credits for going to college, the 2-percent payroll tax break, blah blah blah. The idea is that “Plan B,” presented as a way to keep taxes from going up, would actually raise taxes on the poor, by letting other provisions expire.
Also: Though tax rates would technically go up for those making more than a million bucks, analysis reveals that on average, it would result in a tax cut of $118,000 per household, because the tax policies expiring for the rich folks actually mean they pay less.
The lead-up to the Plan B vote was quite exciting, at least for people who stare at Twitter for a living. The Post began reporting on how lawmakers were shaking their heads. It was chaos:
Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), a key Boehner ally, emerged from the Speaker’s office suite carrying a plate of Chick-Fil-A. Asked if she knew whether her conference had the votes to pass the bill, she said, “I have no idea” before rushing away…
On his way into Boehner’s office, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) would only say “Im doing good” when asked if he had the votes to pass Plan B.
Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), on his way to see [Sen. Daniel] Inouye’s casket, said “I have no clue” what would happen with Plan B — and responded “I have no clue” when asked whether he planned to vote for it.
Seriously. These are the people in charge. To be fair though, it is possible Tim Scott has been drunk since he got his magic ticket into the Senate.
Anyway, don’t bother getting mad — Boehner couldn’t get it passed. He canceled the vote on it and then fled the building, because he couldn’t convince enough representatives in his own party to vote for it.
Actually, you probably should bother getting mad. Here’s why: The Republicans who didn’t vote for it, wouldn’t vote for it because it raised taxes on the rich. They need us now more than ever, those beleaguered wealthies. In the economic recovery since 2010, the top one percent only received 93 percent of the entire country’s income growth. They’re really hurting.
So yes, it made Boehner look foolish, for not being able to whip up enough support for his big PR stunt. But there is someone else who looks even more foolish: The Republicans who voted against Boehner’s plan. They revealed with their “no”s last night that they would rather see the Bush tax cuts expire and let taxes go up for everyone than to vote for a bill that would technically raise taxes on, by their own accounting, the top 0.19 percent of Americans.
This is a real thing. “Letting taxes go up for everyone” is now worse than “Voting on taxes to go up for a few people.” Because voting. That’s it.
So, a question is raised: What if they had voted for it? What if the House had passed Plan B?
The Senate wouldn’t have even voted on it, and even if they had, it wouldn’t have passed. And even if it did pass, Obama said he would veto it. Plan B was dead from the second it left the House, but the House was too loyal to the top 0.19 percent to even get it out the door.
So where are we now? Well, the negotiations between Boehner and Obama resulted in Boehner running out of the room and trying to pass his own thing, which did not pass. Taxes are still set to go up, and staunch austerity measures are set to take effect January 1, on account of Congress voting for these measures last August, when they could have just acted like grown-ups and tried to compromise.
Staunch austerity measures, you will recall, have had a wonderful effect on the economies of Europe.
But compromise, as we saw last night, is not looking like it is in the cards, because compromise means you have no principles and should be run out of town, even if you only represent one half of one half of one branch of the government. Boehner said that “now it is up to the president to work with Senator Reid on legislation to avert the fiscal cliff,” which seems to be gibberish. If House Republicans can’t agree with Boehner, they are certainly not going to agree with Harry “Makin’ Shit Up” Reid. So, just, uh, have a merry Christmas, or something.Related