We certainly haven’t convinced a majority of our fellow Americans on this basic issue:
…Sixty percent in this ABC News/Washington Post poll support raising taxes on incomes more than $250,000 a year, long a popular option overall, but also a divisive one: While 73 percent of Democrats and 63 percent of independents are in favor, far fewer Republicans, 39 percent, agree…
…Sixty-seven percent in this poll…oppose another suggestion, raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67. And on this idea, strong opposition surpasses strong support by more than 3-1, 49 to 14 percent…
So, at the end of the day, a solid majority are in favor of raising taxes on “the rich” while an even more solid majority are opposed to the basic, common-sense idea of raising the age of Medicare eligibility in order to preserve the Medicare system. People are in favor of something which won’t help and opposed to something which would. Whatever else we did in 2012, we utterly failed to make a dent on the issue of fiscal reform of the United States government.
I think our failure on taxes is that our absolute opposition to all tax increases has painted us in to a corner where Democrats (aided by the by-lined Democrats in the MSM) can label us as extreme. To be sure, opposing tax increases has been, is and will remain a key GOP principal because we know that you can never feed the Big Government beast enough. No matter how much money you give to it, it will be blown through and more demanded. We’d have a $6 trillion a year budget if we hadn’t held the line on taxes all these years. But one must not allow rigidity to overcome good sense – we should have seen four or more years ago that as long as there are people with more money than they know what to do with the Democrats would be able to successfully campaign on an “make the rich pay their fair share” slogan. That most of these super-rich are liberals and that Democrat tax proposals will hit the super-rich lightly, if at all, is irrelevant: we handed them an issue and ideological rigidity against tax increases prevented us from a counter-offensive which can preserve low marginal rates (vital, as we know, for economic growth). This is the genesis of my “wealth tax” proposal – a tax aimed at the very richest and not at productive capital, but at money just squirreled away in tax shelters of various types. Had we come out with a wealth tax for the 2012 campaign it would have been us attacking Democrats and deflecting their attack on us – at worst, it would have been a wash and it may have worked out to our credit…and we’d be in a much stronger position right now to fight for lower marginal rates to be maintained.
Our failure on entitlement reform stems from the failure on taxes – as a party which has been successfully painted as defending low taxes for the rich, any and all reasonable reforms of entitlements can be (and have been) cast by the Democrats as a callous disregard for the poor and middle class by a party which is only interested in defending low taxes for the rich. Yes, I know this isn’t true, at all – but it is how we’ve been painted and it is something we must change if we are to succeed. Remember, Obama won’t be President forever – eventually we will be back in power. When we get there if we haven’t convinced a majority of Americans to back us on entitlement reform then there’s no point in winning. If we don’t reform entitlements then even if we some how manage to avoid fiscal collapse in the next five years or so then we are still absolutely stuck with the fact that entitlements will soon eat up almost all government revenues. That is unsustainable. But we can’t offer ourselves as reformers of entitlements until the people trust us as defenders of the poor and the middle class. That we already are (no greater enemy of the poor and middle class than a tax hiking, entitlement expanding liberal who pretends there is no crisis), but the people don’t know it – don’t understand it; don’t buy it.
To get the people firmly on our side we have to be seen as firmly on their side. To be sure, it is almost certain that things will just get worse and worse as Obama’s 2nd term unfolds. Nothing which was wrong in 2008 has been fixed and nothing will be fixed as long as Obama is President – he’s apparently unaware of the problems or just doesn’t care about them. Whatever the case, the problems won’t be solved. But it won’t be enough for us to just be “not the Democrats”…we have to be seen as something which will change the course from the Democrats and in a manner which is easily understood as helping the poor and middle class. This, in turn, requires a ruthless turning away from big business, from those who have, and a relentless pointing out of the plight of the poor and the middle class and a relentless education of the same that it is the Democrats who have, on purpose, done all this to them. My “wealth tax” proposal is one method. Another is to go gangbusters, once again, for school choice. Yet another is to point out that Uncle Sam can use Medicare money to help people take care of their old folks rather than shoving them off – at twice the cost – to sub-standard nursing homes (and telling oldsters and their kids that we’re going to keep them at home will resonate as more and more people get old). On and on like that – show them that we are not for the rich, that we are for the poor and the middle class…that we will get them better results without taking anything away (do not campaign against “free stuff” – in time, with rational economic policies, less and less free stuff will be needed until we reach a tipping point where only a tiny minority is getting free stuff…but if you go out there and complain about the free stuff then all you do is automatically alienate everyone who is getting free stuff…including those who would rather not but just don’t see any other way: really, we have to stop being the Stupid Party and learn how to play a long game).
Its either become the party of the people, or perish. Our choice. We’ll see what we decide.