The Bush-era tax cuts have always been a hotly contested point between Republicans and Democrats, but on Monday, July 16, it became an ultimatum. Democratic Senator Pat Murray of Washington declared, “If we can't get a good deal, a balanced deal that calls on the wealthy to pay their fair share, then I will absolutely continue this debate into 2013 rather than lock in a long-term deal this year that throws middle-class families under the bus.” What this means is that Democrats are now willing to let all of the hotly contested tax cuts expire unless GOP rivals cave on tax increases for the wealthy. This new hardline stance will win over hardline leftist loyalists, but is it smart to be playing politics with the paychecks of the middle class? Not likely.
Democrats, under the guidance of President Obama, have been pushing for tax increases on families earning $250,000 or more, and individuals making $200,000 or more, for the past few years. This new stance by Murray, the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, is dangerous both for those whose seats are up for grabs this year, and for the president himself. According to a McClatchy-Marist poll, 53% of Americans want the tax cuts to apply to everyone, while only 43% want them to expire for the wealthiest Americans.
Not to be outdone, Republicans fired back, calling the president's plan harmful to employment. Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio responded saying, “Today, instead of lifting the burden on job creators, the President is once again calling for a massive tax increase on nearly 1 million small businesses that employ tens of millions of Americans. I guess he still thinks the private sector is doing just fine. Well, the private sector is not fine.”
Both sides also began priming themselves to start the blame game with the massive budget cuts set to happen in January, known as “sequestration.” Democrats are pushing for revenue increases aimed at the wealthy, while republicans are pushing for spending cuts aimed at entitlements and other social spending.
Again, Senator Murray fired the first shot, saying “Anyone who tells you sequestration is going to simply disappear because both sides want to avoid it is either fooling themselves, or is trying to fool you. It is going to have to be replaced, and that replacement is going to have to be balanced.” Adam Jentles on, a spokesman for Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, also fired off that the Senate Leader has “always said that we're not changing anything until Republicans compromise and embrace a plan that includes revenues.”
Knowing the stances of both parties, it’s safe to assume that many Americans, and specifically middle class Americans, are going to see smaller and smaller paychecks come January 1st. This new stance on the Bush-era tax cuts by senate democrats may have pushed Washington into a political Cold War, and yes, Mutually Assured Destruction is likely.