This is not another analysis or observation focusing on the strategy and tactics that led to the deal just made on taxes. I was bored by the whole debate weeks ago because, frankly, it missed a much more central fact: the Democratic Party long ago gave up the fight over having a sensible tax rate for the richest people.
They’ve given up:
That’s because many Democrats readily acknowledge that they’ve exhausted their ability to raise taxes on the richest Americans by jacking up their rates.
The historic tax agreement passed by Congress this week raises rates on top earners from 35 percent to 39.6 percent. Meanwhile, provisions from the 2010 health care law kicked in Jan. 1, increasing rates on investment income from 15 percent to almost 24 percent for the most affluent taxpayers.
Winning these levies was hard enough. With Republicans licking their wounds in the wake of the fiscal cliff deal, Democrats know that politically speaking, there’s virtually no way to keep increasing marginal tax rates.
“This does settle the issue of rates for individuals,” Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.) told POLITICO. “That’s good. That certainty and predictability is one of the gains” of the fiscal cliff legislation.
Michigan Rep. Sander Levin, the top Democrat on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, agreed. When asked whether more rate increases are in the offing, he responded, “I don’t foresee that.” [emphasis added]
Ah, to be French…as I wrote just days before this dumb deal, the richest French won’t pay the 75 percent sought by President Francois Hollande. Nah, they’ll have to stumble along at…a “45 percent rate, which will apply to income above 150,000 euros, or about $198,000, is itself an increase from the previous top rate of 41 percent.” Get it. The richest people in this country — who both parties define as couples making $450,000 and single people making $400,000 — will only have to pay a measly 39.5 percent, while the French wealthy — defined at a much lower level — will pay a bigger slice.
And yet people hold slap themselves on their back as if they’ve done the country a favor. Please.
This is a basic problem of framing, to channel George Lakoff and Drew Westen. The White House’s home page reveals the problem. It trumpets the deal as “Relief for Middle Class Families”.
“Relief” suggested that political leaders rode to the rescue to save people from a terrible thing. That projects the conservative frame.
Here is just a snippet from Lakoff:
Then, there is “tax.” To progressives, taxes are forms of revenue allowing the government to do what is necessary for Americans as a whole — unemployment insurance, social security, health care, education, food safety, environmental improvements, infrastructure building and maintenance, and so on.
But the conservative message machine, over the past 30 years, has come to own the word “tax.” They have changed its meaning to most Americans. They have been able to make “tax” mean “money the government takes out of the pockets of people who have earned it in order to give it to people who haven’t earned it and don’t deserve it.” Thus, “tax relief” assumes that taxation is an affliction to be cured, and a “tax cut” is a good thing in general. Hence, conservatives make the argument, “No one should have their taxes raised.”
The conservative slogan activates the conservative view of taxes. But the progressive slogan “No tax cuts for millionaires” also activates the conservative view of taxes! The progressives are helping the conservatives. [emphasis added]
Democrats have been trapped in this game for a very long time. It, then, seems a like a victory to raise taxes on the wealthiest to 39.5 percent when that is truly pathetic and only continues the robbery of the Treasury and hollowing out of government’s ability to support a decent society.
Stop fucking talking about “tax relief”, you idiots — yes, that means you, Mr. President. I’m sorry but if you can’t, or won’t, grasp the narrow frame you keep repeating, then, get out of the way. You are not helping.
The problem is NOT that tax rates are too high in the country. The idea of “relief” should not be talked about when speaking about taxes.
The problem that workers need relief from is simple:
Corporations are robbing workers of their wages.
Productivity has gone up for 30-40 years but paychecks have not reflected that hard work — so of course people feel their paychecks are smaller…they are.
Pensions are evaporating because the greedy bastards on Wall Street had a party and, now, everyone else is footing the bill — and by the way none of those big scumbags are in jail.
That’s why this deal is a joke. Because it solidifies a frame that we’ve reached the upper limit of demanding that rich people pay a fair share.