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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Happy Tax Day! Well, maybe not for you. As Nobel Prize laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz explains at At the New York Times Opinionator blog, in his “A Tax System Stacked Against the 99 Percent,”: “About 6 in 10 of us believe that the tax system is unfair — and they’re right: put simply, the very rich don’t pay their fair share. The richest 400 individual taxpayers, with an average income of more than $200 million, pay less than 20 percent of their income in taxes…consider Germany, for instance, which has managed to maintain its status as a center of advanced manufacturing, even though its top income-tax rate exceeds America’s by a considerable margin. And in general, our top tax rate kicks in at much higher incomes…The top rate in the United States, 39.6 percent, doesn’t kick in until individual income reaches $400,000 (or $450,000 for a couple). Only three O.E.C.D. countries — South Korea, Canada and Spain — have higher thresholds.”
Jeffrey M. Jones reports at Gallup.com that only 55 percent of Americans believe their taxes are fair, according to a Gallup Poll conducted April 4-7 — the lowest figure since 2001. Interestingly, “…Democrats and political liberals much more likely than Republicans and conservatives to believe their taxes are fair.”
For an instructive history of a problematic word Democrats shouldn’t even be using, check out Hedrik Hertzberg’s “Senses of Entitlement” at the New Yorker. “The word, that is, not the thing. “Entitlements”–alternatively, “entitlement programs”–is now the standard descriptor for what ought to be called, more accurately and less tendentiously, social insurance. In the early days of Social Security, politicians and bureaucrats occasionally talked of it as an “earned entitlement.”
E. J. Dionne, Jr. clarifies the role of the Newtown families in forcing progress towards enacting background checks. Dionne makes a convincing counter-intuitive argument — that the Newtown families have restored reason to the debate — while the NRA political minions have pitched emotional arguments devoid of reason.
Joan McCarter’s Daily Kos post “Remembering the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage debacle: What happens when you piss off seniors” is an instructive read, which notes “…See this week’s AARP survey. Seventy percent of voters age 50 or older are opposed to the chained CPI for Social Security. That increases to 78 percent opposed to having it applied to retired and disabled veterans’ benefits. But the number politicians really need to consider: 66 percent. That’s the group that will be more inclined to vote against a senator or representative who voted for any kind of deal including chained CPI.”
Also at Kos, John Perr explains why “Raising payroll tax cap is the best fix for Social Security“: Compared to President Obama’s chained C.P.I. proposal, “…Raising the payroll tax cap from its current $113,000 to $200,000 will generate far more revenue and deficit reduction for Uncle Sam without trimming benefits for millions of seniors already so close to the edge of financial distress.”
At The Daily Beast Bob Shrum’s “Democrats Need to Stop Attacking Obama’s Budget and Wake Up to Reality” notes in a nut graph: “The Obama budget does raise taxes on the wealthy by capping their deductions–which is one reason Democrats should rally to it. And there’s another: it increases spending now, while back-loading steeper deficit reduction, to support and speed the pace of the recovery. Do Democrats really think it’s smart to go into the midterms weighed down by the vulnerability of a sluggish economy? That didn’t work out so well for them in 2010.”
At The Nation, however, John Nichols warns that “Obama’s Chained-CPI Social Security Cut is Smart Politics… For the GOP.” Nichols explains that NRCC head Rep. Greg Walden is taking a new tack: “…ripping the president’s decision to go with “Chained-CPI.” And it explains why austerity opponents are ripping Walden – they fear any rips in the fabric of fantasy that suggests only a cuts agenda (as opposed to a growth agenda) will balance budgets.” But Nichols adds that Walden is one of the GOP’s smartest and most experienced strategists. “…He knows that a Democratic president talking about Social Security cuts is a winning issue for Republicans.”
In Jonathan Martin and John F. Harris’s Politico post “President Obama, Republicans fight the class war“, they quote GOP pollster Whit Ayres: “”We had Obama beating Romney by 11 percentage points on the question of who would do more to help the middle class,” said Ayres. “And that was absolutely critical. Demographics don’t explain our losses in Ohio, Wisconsin and Iowa. What explains those losses is that Republicans were not deemed to be the party of the middle class…”Whichever party is the voice of the middle class ends up winning presidential elections,” said Ayres. “When Republicans were winning five of six presidential elections we were the voice of the middle class and Democrats were the voice of special interests and minorities. And just as Reagan pinned the tag of special interests and minorities on Democrats, Obama pinned on us the party of the rich this time. And then we did what Democrats did in the 1980s — we played into the caricature.” Say the authors: “Class warfare works.”
Mother Jones notes that Mitch McConnell’s “I’m the victim here” act has not impressed Kentucky’s flagship Louisville Courier-Journal, which ran an editorial yesterday saying: “Mr. McConnell has masterfully diverted public attention from the offensive content of the tape–which is the real story here–to his outrage over how it was obtained….He has long ceased to serve the state, instead serving the corporate interests he counts on for contributions and leading obstruction that continues to plague Congress. He needs a credible opponent and a serious effort by people ready to advance the interests of Kentucky and its citizens.”

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