On Sunday’s broadcast of ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” Washington Post columnist George Will said last week’s last-ditch fiscal cliff deal was a win over liberalism, because it forced Democrats to accept some tenets of supply-side economics — specifically the Bush-era tax cuts.
“I think people will look back on this [as a] deal where liberalism passed an apogee and went into decline for the following reason: The Bush tax rates were passed in two tranches, 2001 and 2003. In 2001, only 28 Democratic members of the House voted for them. In 2003, only seven did. And they did it for only 10 years they were to expire. Under this deal, 172 House Democrats voted to make Bush rates permanent for all but one half of 1 percent of American taxpayers. What that means is that they can no longer tax the middle class.”
Will, who also made the fiscal cliff argument in a Washington Post op-ed last week, then took aim at co-panelist Robert Reich, the former secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton, calling him “an endangered species.”
Will argued that in order to have the welfare state he said Reich and other liberals want, the Bush tax rates on the middle class would have had to been rolled back, taking the entitlement state off the table.
“There are only three liberals in the country, and you’re one, who aren’t actively hostile to arithmetic and therefore, you know ,you cannot fund a state the liberals want, the entitlement state without taxing the middle class at least. And now you’ve given up that with the locking in as permanent law the Bush tax rates — that’s off the table.”
Reich denied Will’s claim, arguing that his position on tax hikes results from economic necessity, rather than strict adherence to ideology.
“I think that the problem really with the deal is that what we needed most from an economic standpoint is, number one, a stimulus in the short term; number two, serious deficit reduction in the long term; and, number three, some stability and some certainty about the future. And we got none of this. And that really is a major problem. We are going to be up against continuous trench warfare, and we have not dealt really at all with the deficit, long-term deficit problem. And in the short term we’ve got a huge employment issue. I mean jobs should be the number-one issue right now in the country. It still is. We saw that unemployment report, it still is a terrible jobs picture and yet we have virtually no stimulus. In fact, you know, Social Security taxes are going up.”