Tearing Down Is A Lot Easier Than Building-- Just Ask The Republican Party Elites
BINGO! BINGO! BINGO! The Republicans are a conservative party. They just want to keep the status quo. Their reactionary wing wants to turn the clock backwards but… for most old fashioned Republicans that's not the main goal. Keeping it all the same is good enough for most of them. They’re not really a governing party. In fact, they’re an anti-governing party. They just don’t want change. Yesterday, the Washington Post published a new column by Paul Waldman about how the Republicans want you the feel like everything is out of control and falling apart. They can blame it on the poor schlepp in the White House and make it all that much harder for his government to accomplish anything at all. Mission accomplished.
Waldman cited a Gallup poll to show that Americans have lost faith in all of our institutions, even beyond government (sporting the lowest confidence in Congress, the presidency and the Supreme Court ever)— the media, the medical system, the police, organized religion… you name it.
“Smart Republicans,” wrote Waldman, “know this is great for them and their electoral prospects. It’s about two different views of government— but that’s only part of the story. On the simplest level, anything that convinces people that government is incapable of solving their problems is good for the party that dislikes government, especially with a Democrat in the White House. Dysfunction, gridlock, a string of crises the federal government seems powerless to solve— all of this makes it more likely that voters will go to the polls in the midterms to throw the bums out, regardless of whether the sitting bums caused the problems, or whether the other party’s bums have any better ideas. But it goes deeper than this president and this next election. Republicans benefit from a general sense that things don’t work. Their worldview is built around the idea that each of us is on our own and out for ourselves. Lost your job? Too bad, it was probably your fault, and don’t go asking the government for help. You got sick? Bad luck, but don’t expect the medical system to help. You can’t trust the police and it’s a chaotic world out there? You’d better buy some guns. In the darker versions of this vision, we’re all atomized and disconnected, with no obligations outside our tightest circles and no one to rely on. And if you think there’s an institution out there that will help you, you’re a fool.”
But that doesn’t mean conservatives won’t vote. In recent years, Republicans have convinced their supporters that voting should primarily be an act of rage. Voting has always had an emotional component. But more than ever Republicans believe that the main reason to go to the polls is not to achieve practical policy ends. It’s to lash out at the people you hate.
In this formulation it doesn’t matter whether Donald Trump kept his promises or whether a Republican Congress will either. Sure, his supporters thought, it would have been great if he had erected an impenetrable wall around our borders, brought all those lost manufacturing jobs back from China, repealed Obamacare and deported every undocumented immigrant. But what really mattered was that his election was a giant middle finger thrust in the face of liberals.
As for Democrats, it’s not that they don’t want their supporters to get mad. But for them, the anger isn’t its own reward.
Just look at what has happened since the Supreme Court overturned Roe. The Democratic base has been frustrated with party leaders, not because those leaders aren’t mad enough but because they’ve offered little in the way of a pragmatic plan to restore abortion rights, beyond encouraging the base to vote and donate more money.
The implicit message is: The only way to address this problem is through the government institutions that seem to be failing you. While Democrats need their base to retain faith that the system can be made to work for them, Republicans want their base to have as little faith in the system as possible.
And if Democratic voters lose their faith, they demobilize, seeing no point in voting or participating. Which is exactly what Republicans want them to do.
Perhaps Democrats can convince their base that voting out of pure anger (especially at the Supreme Court) is worthwhile. But right now the party’s leaders don’t really seem to be trying. Meanwhile, the pandemic lingers on, the effects of climate change grow ever more miserable, inflation hasn’t turned around, mass shootings are an almost daily occurrence, and there don’t seem to be any trustworthy institutions to turn to.
Republicans had a hand in exacerbating many of these problems. But the pervasive sense of disorder you’re feeling? The GOP is poised to benefit from it. If voters let them.
The problem with Democrats teaching their base to vote out of anger towards conservatives is that there are an awful lot of conservative Democrats who aren’t ever going to let that happen. In a big tent party like the Democratic Party, dysfunction is a given and the party establishment always moves to protect corrupt conservative incumbents, the way they succeeded in doing for Cuellar and tried but failed with Schrader. Yesterday, the Patriotic Millionaires took aim at one of the most vile of the Senate conservatives, Kyrsten Sinema. They noted that Manchin may get on board with a “skinny” version of Build Back Better which is better than nothing but “nowhere near as ambitious or significant as the original version, especially regarding tax increases on the rich. Manchin is allegedly demanding that the new plan cost no more than $1 trillion— with $500 billion going towards deficit-reducing tax hikes— and Senator Sinema, his equally recalcitrant counterpart, remains firmly against virtually all tax increases on wealthy Americans. To meet this demand and secure their votes, Democrats appear to be preparing to water down many of their original tax initiatives.
It looks like the 15% global minimum corporate tax, which 136 countries in the OECD agreed on back in October, will likely remain in the bill but in a weakened form. The original idea in the OECD agreement, reflected in the Build Back Better Act passed by the House in November, involved taxing large, multinational corporations at a 15% minimum rate in each country in which they operate. Now, the initiative is apparently being watered down to allow companies to combine their profits from different countries to meet the 15% minimum threshold. Additionally, there are also reports that Democrats are considering weakening the 15% domestic minimum tax on financial profits of American corporations and giving companies more time to comply with any new tax changes.
This is nothing short of an outrage. These watered-down tax initiatives would do virtually nothing to prevent the worst of corporate tax avoidance and end the “race to the bottom” as the OECD intended. They would completely fail to stop or discourage recent corporate price-gouging that has disproportionately contributed to record-level inflation and would be a slap in the face for all the responsible taxpayers and small businesses who are not able to take advantage of the many, many loopholes large corporations currently abuse.
But that’s not the worst of it. There are now reports that Democrats have completely scrapped the millionaire surtax in their new plan. This surtax, included in the original Build Back Better Act, would have added a 5% surtax on incomes above $10 million and an additional 3% surtax on incomes above $25 million. This would have affected 22,000 households— .02% of all taxpayers— and raised $230 billion in new revenue.
It’s almost certain that Senator Kyrsten Sinema is behind the removal of the last remaining piece of Build Back Better that could be credibly described as “taxing the rich.” Manchin has been a problem on many other issues, but for the most part, he’s been willing to agree to some moderate tax changes. Sinema, on the other hand, has been a stubborn roadblock on behalf of the ultra-wealthy donors she spends so much time with.
In response to the news regarding the millionaire surtax, John LaBombard, Sinema’s former Communications Director, said, “Her position is now is not the time to raise taxes in any way that would harm small business owners or individuals who are not super rich.” If this statement is to be taken as a legitimate reflection of Sinema’s position, then it is clear that she does not actually understand the surtax that, ironically enough, she was instrumental in crafting. By definition, the surtax would only impact a few thousand of the wealthiest households in America. And take it from us— any business owner raking in $10 million a year is in no way, shape, or form “small.”
Let’s not kid ourselves, though. Sinema isn’t confused: she’s simply bowing to the wishes of her ultra-rich donors. In April, Sinema pledged at an Arizona Chamber of Commerce event that she would be “the same person” in any revived Build Back Better negotiations. If Sinema is behind the reported removal of the millionaire surtax, then she is certainly staying true to her word and once again bending over backwards to serve the financial interests of her donors at the expense of her constituents and the American people.
We fully acknowledge and appreciate that some progress is better than nothing on the tax front. We also recognize that Senate Democrats have their hands tied with their slim majority and their need to appease every member of their caucus. But the American people aren’t going to accept excuses. They want meaningful change to our tax code that demands more from the richest Americans, and unless Democrats deliver it, they’re going to be in trouble in November.