Can Democrats Blow the Upcoming Payroll Tax Fight?

It's hard to see how Democrats could lose this one -- at least, in a PR sense. As Democrats prepare a push to extend a payroll tax break, Republicans oppose it. All of a sudden, tax breaks add to the deficit. They didn't used to, but they do now. Republicans are consistent only in their disregard for logical consistency. When the tax cuts benefit the very rich, they don't add to the deficit. When they don't... Well, that's a different story. And, of course, there's the fact that President Obama is for extending these particular cuts, which -- by the reactionary reasoning of the party -- means they must be bad.

[New York Times:]

It is hard to find a tax cut that Congressional Republicans dislike. Unless it is a tax cut pushed by President Obama.

In a turning of the tax policy tables, Democrats are increasingly hammering on Republicans who oppose the president’s proposal to extend for a year a payroll tax cut passed last year with bipartisan support.

That tax cut -- which reduces workers' contributions to Social Security this year to 4.2 percent of wages, from 6.2 percent -- expires in December. The White House would like to extend it for another year. But Republicans in Congress are balking, arguing that such a cut adds needlessly to the nation’s budget deficit, and should be replaced with an overhaul of tax policy instead.

"All tax relief is not created equal," a spokesperson for Eric Cantor said. "If the goal is job creation, Leader Cantor has long believed that there are better ways to grow the economy and create jobs than temporary payroll tax relief."

And, of course, Cantor is right. There are better ways. The problem is, he doesn't like those any better. What Eric Cantor likes is continuing an economic policy that has now been failing to create jobs for a decade. the supply-side, trickle-down, fairy tale economics rule the day in today's GOP. It hasn't been working, it won't ever work, and cultic Republican belief in it is what's keeping congress from getting anything done.

Which brings me to this:

[Associated Press:]

Americans are plenty angry at Congress in the aftermath of the debt crisis and Republicans could pay the greatest price, a new Associated Press-GfK poll suggests.

The poll finds the tea party has lost support, Republican House Speaker John Boehner is increasingly unpopular and people are warming to the idea of not just cutting spending but also raising taxes -- anathema to the GOP -- just as both parties prepare for another struggle with deficit reduction.

So raising taxes on working people to help fund tax cuts for the rich? That's really not going to fly. And Democrats are planning to force a vote on the extension in the fall. "One way or another, there will be a vote on extending these tax cuts," says Chuck Schumer, "if [Republicans] oppose it they are for tax cuts for the rich but not for the middle class." Greg Sargent describes Democrats as "giddy... about the politics of the payroll tax cut fight." Even if they lose, it's fodder for campaign ads in 2012; "Rep. X voted against tax cuts for working families, so he could help pay for the tax cuts his big money donors demanded. Call Rep. X. Ask him why he won't protect working families like yours."

But if there's one thing I've learned, it's that Democrats can screw up even a gimme. Maybe President Obama will continue his brilliant strategy of working to end fights rather than to win them. Maybe Senate Blue Dogs will break ranks and run to the Republicans' defense. Whatever the route to defeat, it's extremely possible that Democrats will find it.

Which means it's up to us. When the battle heats up, the pressure has to come from the bottom. We have to flip the party hierarchy and make it clear to dems that they work for us, not vice versa.  We have to bang phones and write letters and do the work that democracy demands.

And, when this issue is behind us, we move on to the next. It doesn't end. It never ends. Democracy is a work in constant progress. If we want Democrats to fight, we have to fight too.


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