The message sent on election night was undeniable.
Sixty percent of voters said they want higher taxes on the rich. America has a deficit to close, and taxes on the rich remain about as low as they ever have been since before World War II.
For most Americans, starting by asking the rich to pay a little more isn’t just logical. It’s personal.
Thanks to Mitt Romney, Americans now have a face to put to the trillions in tax breaks we’ve been giving the richest Americans since 2001. The former CEO of Bain Capital wasn’t only a candidate who supported continuing the failed Bush tax breaks for the rich. He was their poster boy.
When Romney was forced to finally volunteer his tax rate, he had to fudge the numbers to justify his claim that he’s never paid lower than 14 percent. The fact is, for last year he’ll end up paying closer to 9 percent after filing an amended return.
When asked if it was fair that he pays a lower tax rate than many bus drivers and nurses, Romney said that it’s the “right way to encourage economic growth—to get people to invest, to start businesses, to put people to work.” He was expressing the basic Republican tenet that investors should get a better deal on taxes than workers.
But Romney never explained how his tax breaks, mostly collected since his “retirement” from Bain Capital, helped create any jobs. And any American can compare the economy of the 90s (when we asked the rich to pay a bit more) with the first decade of the 2000s (when the Mitt Romneys of the world got a huge break) and see which works better for all Americans. Romney probably could afford a car elevator whether or not he was asked to pay the same rate as young doctors or lawyers.
Letting taxes breaks on the rich expire isn’t just popular. It’s the most painless way to cut the deficit, according to the Congressional Budget Office. However, letting all the Bush tax breaks expire would have a serious effect on the economy, costing as much as 1.25 percent in gross domestic product growth—a painful measure when millions of Americans are still out of work.
Yet the GOP remains unwilling to compromise, despite the fact that the “fiscal cliff” means trillions in tax cuts are set to expire along with trillions in automatic spending cuts. House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have vowed not to raise tax rates on the rich
This leaves the president with two choices: he can compromise against the will of the people, or he can let all the Bush tax breaks expire and let the GOP explain why they are against the Obama tax cuts for the middle class.
Thanks to Mitt Romney, the president has the people on his side. And for them, it’s personal.
Photo credit: AP Photo/Charles Dharapak