Debt-ceiling demagoguery: How the GOP can win the war of words

The debt-ceiling negotiations have predictably deteriorated into a game of partisan chicken. President Obama is setting up Republicans to take the blame if a fiscal and economic catastrophe results from the failure to reach a deal to raise the debt ceiling. Even worse, Obama is threatening to saddle the GOP with co-ownership of his stinking economy. Democrats are charging Republicans with courting economic disaster to protect their wealthy patrons from tax hikes. The GOP is responding with its “go-to” move for whenever Democrats try to raise taxes: accusing them of waging class warfare.

Now that “class warfare” charge might cause dyed-in-the-wool Republicans to burn with righteous indignation, but it really doesn’t move the dial for people outside the base. As a Republican, I of course weep bitter tears of pity for billionaires who might have to put off buying that second corporate jet if Obama’s cruel tax increases go through. I have learned, though, that there are hard-hearted people out there incapable of feeling the empathy for the super-rich that I feel intuitively as a Republican. And many of those people are the Independents who will ultimately determine the electoral winners and losers of this showdown, and hence the course of our country’s history. It therefore behooves us to explain our opposition to tax hikes in ways that will resonate with Independents — even those not wealthy enough to feel victimized by class warfare.

I offer, then, this guide to refuting the partisan demagoguery that is being employed to support tax hikes. I have tried to make this user-friendly by using the format of standard Q&A, or perhaps of “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions”:

Can’t millionaires and billionaires afford to pay higher taxes? Of course they can. We don’t care if raising taxes would cramp the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous — they can choke on their caviar for all we care. What we care about is that the rich, who have the ability to make the investments that allow businesses to create jobs, will have less money to invest. That doesn’t mean that all rich people will invest less because of higher taxes, but overall, less money available for investment will result in less investment. Investments lead to profits and wages, as well as to purchases that also lead to profits and wages, all of which leads to more government revenue. The harmful effect of raising taxes can be more than offset by strong economic conditions — which are conspicuously absent at the moment. A wise man once said: “The last thing you want to do is raise taxes in the middle of a recession.” That wise man was President Obama. If the government resists taking more money from those who can invest, then more investments will occur that will potentially make the rest of us richer (and ultimately generate more government revenue to boot). Most of us would call this a win-win, but there are people who would rather stay poor than allow others to be rich. They’re called Europeans.

If millionaires and billionaires have less money to invest, can’t government investment make up for it? There are very few things that government does efficiently, and creating jobs isn’t one of them. It was recently estimated that the stimulus cost us $278,000 per job created, and that we could have saved $427 billion by simply giving each of these people a check for $100,000. And the stimulus has added $666 billion (so far) to the debt burden on our children and grandchildren. Sure, the government could suck more money out of our struggling economy and pump some of that money back into the economy in government’s disastrously inefficient manner, but here’s a better idea: just leave the money in the economy in the first place. The private sector, unlike government, creates jobs without adding to the tax or debt burdens that we all have to bear.