As the fiscal cliff debate unfolded over these past couple of months, one thing became clear – the Republican position is murkier than ever. I honestly have no idea what the right wants concerning issues like entitlement reform, spending cuts, and the debt.
We know Republicans want tax cuts; specifically for the wealthy. The fiscal cliff became a battle waged solely over the Bush tax cuts for top earners. The small percentage of people affected by those top-tier tax cuts became the most important Americans, and the Republican Party was willing to let taxes increase on everybody in order to make an ideological statement.
The logic of this position is still baffling. Republicans were fighting to keep taxes low for the top 2 percent with the threat of raising taxes on 100 percent of the population. While arguing higher taxes would hinder economic growth, more than half of House Republicans voted to go off the cliff and raise taxes on everyone. It was an illogical position from the start.
We can be sure Republicans want to cut taxes for the rich; however, the same cannot be said for the middleclass and less affluent. Although there was very little discussion over the payroll tax cut, an EPI study concluded extending the payroll tax holiday would provide the greatest benefit to cost ratio of all the taxes that were scheduled to increase on January 1. Disappointingly, Democrats did not fight too hard for an extension, but it shouldn’t have even been a fight. Why would the Party so concerned about cutting taxes for the top 2 percent be against extending tax cuts for everyone else? Possibly because the payroll tax cut largely benefited the middleclass, not campaign donors “Job Creators.”
Delving deeper into convoluted Republican positions, one doesn’t have to listen to John Boehner too long to hear talk of reforming entitlements and getting the debt under control. Both ideas sound very conservative, but without any substantive policies back those ideas, it’s nothing more than base-appeasing rhetoric.
Concerning entitlement reform: throughout all the negations, Republicans proposed no actual entitlement reforms, instead, demanded President Obama lay out his own reforms. Besides being a cowardly political move (fearing reform proposals would be fodder for a future attack), why should that be the President’s responsibility? The President wanted to raise taxes and Republicans wanted to reform entitlements. It would make sense for each side to devise a plan according to their desire. The President did his part, but Republicans did nothing, and then blamed Democrats for inaction.
Furthermore, President Obama actually offered changes to Social Security. He proposed calculating Social Security benefits with a chained CPI method. Fancy talk for a benefit cut that slows growth in Social Security spending. Republicans rejected this offer because it would have meant going against their illogical and ideological position to never raise taxes (on the rich). So what do Republicans mean when they speak about entitlement reform? They offered no ideas of their own and rejected the one put forth by President Obama. To be fair, the Ryan Plan did offer changes to entitlements, but they were not reforms. They fundamentally changed the programs; drastically cutting benefits, with no evidence of actually working in practice.
Beyond entitlement reform, is talk of debt management. But where is the evidence Republicans care about decreasing the debt? Their whole position is to lower taxes and magically increase revenue. It is no coincidence that as tax rates are at all time lows, tax revenues have also been at all time lows. Republicans say closing loopholes will bring in revenue, but have yet to mention a specific loophole they are willing to close. They say they want to rein in entitlement spending, but haven’t offered any reforms to those programs besides simply cutting them. And they say they want to cut wasteful spending, but at the same time favor allocating more money to defense than the next 13 countries combined (and still want more!).
Truly, I am confused about the Republican position. Yes, they want lower taxes, but really only for the rich. Other than that, who knows? They talk big about reforming entitlements and decreasing our debt, but none of their policies reflect those beliefs.