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Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol was one of the first conservatives post-election to urge Republicans to compromise on tax increases.Today, Kristol is taking it to The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board for advocating against tax hikes and telling Republicans to hold their ground.
Kristol tears apart the Journal’s argument against raising taxes on incomes above $250,000 — and that Republicans have some leverage in the matter. The Journal argues that “Obama also can’t get what he wants without House Republicans,” and that going over the fiscal cliff would damage his chances for a second-term success.
“It would be great if the Journal editors had a better idea of what Republicans could do. They don’t,” Kristol writes.
Kristol points out that the Journal‘s premise is wrong. It seems to be saying that Republicans hold more cards after going over the cliff — but Kristol writes that this is not true, because Democrats will at that point pass a bill that extends middle-class tax cuts.
President Obama will be beating the drums for this tax cut. Senate Democrats will pass this tax cut. If Senate Republicans vote against it, it won’t be “Senate Democrats running for re-election in 2014” who will have a tax hike on their resumes. It will be Senate Republicans who will have voted against cutting taxes. And if House Republicans block such legislation, it will be they, and they alone, insisting on higher taxes.
Of course they won’t. Republicans will fold with lightning speed after we go over the tax cliff on January 1.
All of which makes the Journal‘s overarching premise — the potential for a second-term disaster for Obama — moot. Kristol observes, bewildered, that Democrats would suddenly be the party of tax cuts if that were to happen. Kristol said in November that it “won’t kill the country if we raise taxes a little bit on millionaires.”
Most Republicans will go along soon after January 1 with what will now be the Democrats’ tax cutting agenda. If the House Republicans now follow the Wall Street Journal editors over the cliff, the only effect, I’m afraid, will be to turn a manageable tactical retreat in December into a panicked strategic rout in January.
Kristol’s point goes hand in hand with other similar conservative arguments and much of the polling conducted on the fiscal cliff. Polls show that the public favours raising taxes on incomes above $250,000, and that Republicans would be blamed if the two sides fail to come to a deal.