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Hullabaloo


Sunday, December 05, 2010

 
Setting Up The Battle On Their Turf

by digby


Kagro X had a fascinating analysis of what the Republicans were up to in the tax cut votes yesterday. He surmises that they want the millionaires tax cut to expire so they can come in after January and reinstate them and be big heroes.

I'm not sure that will work. After all, the president could veto them then and they'd be well and truly gone. I continue to think they want the tax cuts extended temporarily so they can use them in the election as a rallying cry for the idiots who think hiking taxes on millionaires will hurt them. This was written by political scientist Larry Bartels just before the election:

Despite this sustained public support for the president’s position, Democratic leaders in Congress were unwilling to bring the issue to a vote before adjourning last month. Several moderate members of the Democratic caucus had already come out against letting the tax cuts for top-earners expire, and many more were said to be reluctant to cast votes on the issue in the run-up to the election. In light of the popular support for the president’s position, was that a political miscalculation?

Probably not. For one thing, likely voters in next week’s election are much more evenly divided in their views about the Bush tax cuts. The plurality favoring selective cuts going forward shrinks from 13 points in the general population to just 2 points among midterm voters. This difference is partly due to the much-noted “enthusiasm gap” between Republicans and Democrats. However, even among political independents projected turnout is more than 30 points higher among those who want the top-rate tax cuts renewed (73%) than among those who want them to expire (42%).

Even more importantly, the sizable minority of people who want the tax cuts for affluent taxpayers renewed seem to attach much more weight to this issue than the slim majority who want them to expire. In a statistical analysis taking separate account of prospective voters’ broader partisan attachments, those who support President Obama’s position on the tax cuts are only 6% more likely than those who are unsure about the issue to say they will vote for a Democratic House candidate. Even those who want to let all the tax cuts expire are only 9% more likely to vote Democratic. By comparison, those who want to keep the tax cuts for affluent taxpayers in place are 22% more likely to say they will vote for a Republican House candidate.

An even more lopsided difference appears in the impact of tax cut preferences on presidential approval. People who support President Obama’s position on this issue are only slightly more approving of his overall performance than those who are unsure, while those who want to renew all the tax cuts are moved about five times as far toward disapproving. Among political independents, a whopping 76% of those who want continued tax cuts for the rich say they strongly disapprove of the president’s performance; only 27% of those who support his proposal for selective extension of the tax cuts are equally disenchanted.

These differences in preference intensity cannot be explained in terms of simple self-interest. On average, the people who want to renew the tax cuts for top earners are somewhat more affluent than the population as a whole; but only 8% say they have household incomes of $150,000 or more—incomes that might put them within hailing distance of having their own taxes hiked. Half have household incomes of less than $50,000, and almost that many say they don’t even know anyone who earns more than $200,000 per year.

These results suggest that candidate Obama’s skillful-looking proposal to allow the tax cuts to expire only for the richest 2% of taxpayers has turned out to be very costly for President Obama and his party, despite its overall popularity. Of course, the president and his allies in Congress could still push to implement the proposal in a lame duck session. If they do, it will be a principled choice rather than a politically expedient one. For expedient politicians, an energized minority trumps a tepid majority every time.
I don't know if the Republicans do this sort of analysis or simply have better instincts about how to motivate people, but this is why I think they want the issue out there for the next two years.. They believe this fight accrues to their benefit.

I also think the Democrats are idiots not to have dispensed with this issue early on. But I'm guessing they too think this issue isn't a winner for them so they are always just planned to punt. But that raises the question again about the viability of the party. If they cannot even make a winning argument out of cutting taxes for 98% of the people then I'm not sure what they're good for.


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