Rush Limbaugh Made Them Do It

Article excerpt

Byline: Paul Begala

Republicans just opposed a middle-class tax cut--and handed Obama the election.

In October, President Obama signed legislation implementing free-trade deals with South Korea, Panama, and Colombia. Bet you probably hadn't heard about that. The trade deals were the biggest since NAFTA--which President Clinton signed into law after a titanic fight. Guided by his silky-smooth U.S. trade representative, Ron Kirk, Obama's deals glided through the GOP House and the Democratic Senate. No fight, no credit.

Republicans should have adopted the same strategy on extending Obama's payroll-tax cut. Like free trade, tax cuts are completely compatible with Republican orthodoxy. Heck, they are Republican orthodoxy. When we had a surplus, the GOP's answer was to cut taxes. When the surplus turned into deficit (in large part because of the Bush tax cuts), the Republicans supported more tax cuts. In time of peace they argued for (wait for it) tax cuts. When we were involved in two wars, costing billions of dollars a month, then-House Republican leader Tom DeLay said, "Nothing is more important in the face of war than cutting taxes."

How on earth did the GOP maneuver itself into a position where it is opposing tax cuts for the middle class and Barack Obama is fighting for them?

Leading Republicans say they've taken this position out of principled opposition to "class warfare." But come on: tacking an additional 1.9 percent tax on income over $1 million isn't class warfare. It's not even class spitballs. Don't believe me? Twenty-seven Senate Republicans voted against the Republican version of the middle-class tax cut, which deleted the millionaires' surtax and replaced it with a federal pay freeze and spending cuts.

So something else is going on here, and I'm starting to think the GOP just doesn't like the middle-class tax cut. But why? Cutting the payroll tax for working people is good for the economy. The research firm Macroeconomic Advisers projects that the Obama middle-class tax cut will create 1.3 million new jobs by the end of next year and 800,000 more in 2013. Former McCain economic adviser Mark Zandi of Moody's Analytics says the payroll-tax cut has prevented us from slipping back into a recession. …