In today’s Morning Jolt, equal time for an argument contrary to my own views:
Did the GOP Concede Too Early?
A few moments of equal time here, for a theory that I’m not quite on board with, but is worth hearing nonetheless. Hugh Hewitt is convinced the GOP erred greatly by agreeing to this deal at this point. His argument is twofold: First, the GOP shouldn’t be cutting deals with Obama behind closed doors less than a month after winning great victories by pledging better openness and accountability in Washington. Second, he suspects that even a week later, the GOP would have been able to force Obama to even greater concessions, including potentially a permanent extension of all of the Bush-era tax rates.
Hugh makes his case: “As Rush pointed out on his show this past hour, the GOP could have gotten so much more. President Obama would never have allowed taxes to go up on the middle class. Never. What the D.C. GOP failed to grasp and what is now the source of anger among its supporters beyond the terms themselves is that for the past two years the D.C. GOP has been complaining bitterly and appropriately about being excluded from the process of governing. No sooner does the D.C. GOP get welcomed into the governing councils of the Beltway but they in turn exclude the people who sent them there, and not just the scores of newly elected representatives and senators who were not consulted on this “deal,” but the millions of people who worked and contributed to the victory of November 2. All it would have taken was a a request for input on various terms from the Republican negotiators to the new members of Congress and an invitation to the public to weigh in. But the old guard took it upon themselves to decide for the rest of the country what should be in the deal, and in so doing reverted to the form that brought about the Gang of 14 and immigration fiasco.”
Last night on Hugh’s program, South Carolina Jim DeMint sounded like he was inclined to agree with that position: “You know, I hesitate to pounce right on them and criticize them, because I wasn’t in the room doing the negotiation. And they may have felt after being there that this was the best we can do. Frankly, I don’t think the President is going to let us leave town without extending tax rates for at least the middle class. So I think we had a lot of leverage. I don’t want to second-guess my leadership, but frankly, I think we need to come away with a lot better than this. We cannot increase the deficit, or keep increasing deficit spending. So again, I’m trying not to be too hard on the people who’ve done this, but we’ve worked too hard, and Americans worked too hard to elect us. And like you said, I think our new members should have a say in what we’re doing here. So it wouldn’t hurt my feelings at all if we pushed this whole things into next year.”
I also was on Hugh’s show last night, and my counter-query to Hugh was what he thought the GOP’s highest priority in the negotiations should have been. I’d submit that preventing the higher tax rates from taking effect January 1 was near the top, if not at the top. Sure, eventually some sort of full or partial tax cut plan would go into place later in the year, but the New Year’s Day tax hike would have been a serious kick in the ribs for an economy that’s already on all fours and coughing. Sure, the resulting economic pain would have probably hurt Obama, but the partisan benefit would have come at great cost to the national interest. Besides, having this whole debate again the fall of 2012 seems pretty appealing right now.