"They remain in the same place: They expect taxes to go up on the wealthy and to protect Medicare and Medicaid benefits. They feel confident that they don't have to compromise." -- White House meeting attendee
"We have to make sure that people who vote for socialism feel the consequences of voting for socialism." -- Bill Whittle
In the flurry of ideas about the future of the Republican Party and the contentious talks over the Sequester of Damocles, I decided to humor my Facebook friends by posting a conservative post-election take on A Modest Proposal:
Also, if the GOP agrees to tax hikes in exchange for something else - like entitlement reform, but only the promise of reform which we know will never come to fruition - they will predictably get slaughtered for "caving" instead of compromising, which is actually what they'd be doing. Again, the GOP doesn't have the skill or a complicit media to explain how they compromised while Obama and Democrats didn't...
So what do they do? They're stuck in a no-win situation. The answer is simple: Give Obama what he wants. All of it. Don't negotiate. Just say, "Put your plan up for a vote and we'll pass it. You will own everything that happens moving forward. We'll do it your way."
Presumably, there are a good many liberals who would love this approach, as it would allow them to get everything they want with some appearance of bipartisanship. As terrifying as it seems to conservatives, many do sincerely believe that fealty to obsolescing Great Society politics is part of a robust model for a better world. But the response I received was more interesting than any of that. To quote a Democrat-voting friend: "Well yes, Obama did win, so I want Republicans to give up on Grover Norquist and accept tax hikes on the rich, but stay true to their other principles at the negotiation table. That is what a moderate Republican would do in my eyes. And that's what 'negotiation' is."
Curiously, it's not enough for this friend to have his policy preferences enacted over Republican objections. He wants conservatives to be complicit in the act of raising taxes for nothing more than the hot air of hope for real change later. If this were accomplished, a caricature of conservatism would share equally in any blame for economic pain to come, and future politicians could pretend that nobody "serious" foresaw the calamity. My friend aside, the crux of nearly every argument from the left for "moderation" and "balance" on the conservative commitment to limited government and free enterprise is this implicit desire for an ostensibly substantive -- but actually empty -- Republican stamp of involvement in a policy agenda that comes light in the arena of serious long-term proposals for averting disaster.
There is nothing "moderate" about Obama imperiously doubling his demand for more taxes or refusing to discuss cuts he will pursue for "balance." Even as the president campaigned today against the dangers of tax hikes on small businesses, he has already reneged on his campaign promise to support a once bipartisan effort to lower corporate taxes and make American enterprise more competitive. This "balanced approach" denudes any leverage for securing necessary cuts that Democrats are already fighting. Necessary reforms will not be popular, and they will certainly not be more readily achieved when the incentive to produce them -- expanded revenue -- is already conceded and enacted.
So if Democrats are so eager to avenge the myth of Robin Hood against the dastardly "rich," independent of all else, what does the "balanced" end game look like? What are the reforms that will secure Medicare beyond the next decade? Where is the talk of addressing the appreciating regulatory burden on businesses and energy policy? If we disapprove of offshore accounts, where is the attendant discussion about why American investors find it more profitable to send capital overseas than maintain it domestically? If Clinton-era tax rates are so preferable, where is the talk of reducing state taxes to 90s levels and restoring Clinton-era spending?
The right answers to these and other questions will do a lot more good for a lot more people than all the rate hikes in the world. Republicans are not out defending the rich against all reason. We are trying to ensure an actual balanced approach is accomplished in a matter broadly agreeable and efficacious in the face of ongoing intransigence from a storm of special interests with stakes in the status quo.
But while we're on the subject, "the rich" -- however defined -- are neither the enemy nor wanting for patriotism. They just want to be industrious and successful like anybody else, and they find their fortunes where our policies encourage them to do so. If our current economic climate is not sufficiently geared toward growth and broad prosperity, then we'll be in for a long, dark ride through the next four years.
Elections have consequences, America. I hope we're ready for them all.