Over at TPM, Brian Beutler is again spinning happy talk about how the expiration of the Bush tax cuts will give Obama tremendous leverage after the election:
If the Bush tax cuts expire at the end of the year, it’ll give President Obama about $4 trillion in revenue over the coming 10 years. That’s way, way more than he asked for, more than he presumably wants, more than the economy can easily bear, and so everyone will have a great deal of incentive to negotiate backwards from it.
Alternatively, House Democrats and Republicans could pass legislation Harry Reid maneuvered through the Senate a few weeks back that extends all the Bush tax cuts, except those benefiting only higher income people. Yes, that would require Republicans to fully cave and affirmatively vote for higher revenue. But by giving Obama the bare minimum he’s asking for, it would also likely limit the damage — to about $800 billion over 10 years. Thus far and no further.
Politically, that would be a very heavy lift for John Boehner — which helps explain why Harry Reid’s pushing so hard for it and why Boehner himself recently said he wouldn’t support it even if Obama wins.
But if you’re a conservative and your ultimate goal is to keep federal revenues as low as possible, it’d be the easiest and smartest move, even if it’d also be a symbolically distasteful gesture. And, moreover, since Senate Democrats already passed the bill, Mitch McConnell et al might not mind the idea of leaving this all up to the House.
Those are the two likeliest scenarios.
But the ultimate goal of the Republicans is not to keep federal revenue as low as possible. The ultimate goal is a revolutionary reshaping of American society that tries to reverse the New Deal.
Now, if that is your goal, it is easy to see the real likeliest scenario, which is that if Obama wins, the GOP pushes us over the “fiscal cliff” back into severe recession, resolutely blocks any efforts at stimulus for four years, and then run in 2016 on the “failure” of the Democrats to right the ship.
I think it is a fatal error to underestimate the lengths to which the GOP will go in order to achieve its revolutionary ambitions. This is not normal politics, and the logic of leverage and negotiations is as misplaced here as it has been in other dark periods of the past.