How many S’s in a Senate Sentimental Statement make for a Symbolic Surreal Exercise in inSanity?Posted: July 6, 2011
Harry Reid has introduced a bill called the “Sense of the Senate on Shared Sacrifice”. It basically has no recommendations, suggestions, policy measures, or required action. It is symbolic surreality at best and an exercise in serious alliteration. I can frankly hear Daffy Duck adding “suffering succotash” to the end. Hisssssssss.
The Senate as early as Wednesday could vote on a “Sense of the Senate” bill that says taxpayers earning $1 million or more each year should “make a more meaningful contribution to the deficit-reduction effort.”
The bill has no specific recommendations on how much taxes should be raised on high-income earners, and is simply a recommendation that these taxpayers pay more. Because the 60 votes needed to end debate are unlikely to materialize, the vote will likely be used by Democrats as a way to show Republican resistance to new tax hikes.
Democrats might also try to use the vote as leverage in negotiations on how to raise the debt ceiling by showing that there is support for a tax increase. In those talks, which are expected to continue this week, Democrats have said taxes on the wealthy and on oil companies should be part of the equation for reducing the deficit. Republicans have so far rejected this, and argue that an agreement needs to focus solely on spending cuts.
Now I’m all for meaningful displays of protest and performance art but I’m not alone in thinking this is shallow grandstanding. Here’s the sentiment of Greg Sargent on the subject. Did I mention the word Surreal is his subject head?
So it’s come to this. Republican opposition to any kind of revenue increase as part of the deficit deal has grown so implacable that Dems will now hold a Senate vote tomorrow on the basic idea that millionaires and billionaires should help contribute to fixing our deficit.
It’s not a vote on any specific proposal to hike taxes or end tax breaks. Rather, it’s a vote that puts each Senator on record on the general question of whether the rich should sacrifice in service of deficit reduction.
According to a Dem leadership aide, Senate Democrats have decided, as expected, to proceed with a vote tomorrow on a resolution that would declare that it is the “sense of the senate” that those who make $1 million or more per year should “make a more meaningful contribution to the deficit reduction effort.”
The vote — a cloture motion on the question of whether to proceed to an up-or-down vote on this resolution — is designed to put Repubicans on the spot. The idea is to force GOPers to go on the record choosing between declaring general support for more sacrifice from the wealthy — which in theory could strengthen Dem leverage in the talks — or reveal that they’re ideologically hostile to the notion that the rich should sacrifice anything to fix our fiscal mess. Dem Senators are holding a presser this afternoon to push the issue.
That this vote is happening at all perfectly captures just how surreal this debate has become. Democrats have agreed to over $1 trillion in spending cuts, and have reportedly agreed to tens of billions in Medicare cuts as part of that package. The American people have declared in poll after poll after poll that they think the deficit should be addressed through a combination of spending cuts and tax hikes. Yet Republicans are simply refusing to entertain the possibility of any revenue increases of any kind — to the point where even conservative columnists like David Brooks are growing seriously alarmed by the anti-tax fanaticism that’s on display.
Here’s David Dayen’s take at FDL. (Notice, I’ve decided to can the alliteration. It was getting way to easy and annoying.)
I’m actually all for nakedly political votes. This bill does not put anything into law, does not actually force millionaires to make a “more meaningful contribution” to deficit reduction. All it does is force Republicans onto the side of millionaires. If used successfully, that’s a fine vote to have for the next several cycles, and is sure to come up in television ads. Politics must be played sometimes.
But let’s not pretend that this is a “millionaire’s tax bill.” There was an opportunity to put a millionaire’s surtax in the Democratic budget; Kent Conrad will deliver a budget with a balanced approach between taxes and spending, but that surtax was dropped. There are a series of ideas about ending tax breaks for corporate jet owners, but I don’t know if you can even call them “meaningful.” Especially when you put them against the potential for $500 billion in Medicare and Medicaid cuts – just a year after a separate set of $500 billion in cuts to Medicare Advantage overpayments and other fat-trimming from Medicare – and another $100 billion through changing the COLA formula for Social Security beneficiaries. That adds up to twice as much in deficit reduction from seniors, the poor and the disabled than from the sum total of all revenue raisers on the table.
And anyway, none of those revenue raisers will be voted on in this sense of the Senate legislation. It just says that millionaire contributions would be a good idea. I assume then that the plan is to approach the millionaires individually.
My take is that if it’s such a good idea, then Reid should actually do something about it. He should’ve done something about it last winter when Obama was selling out on the Dubya Bush tax cut extensions. Our government shouldn’t be a person on the street with a tin cup. Congress spent all this damned money on all those wars and handed out all those ridiculous tax loop holes. Frankly, I’m with Katrina vanden Heuvel who thinks Obama and the Democrats should just invoke the 14th amendment and tell the Republicans to go to hell. Enough of this symbolic shit! Send Rubio, Ryan, and Boehner to the moon!