Mere days after the polls closed in 2004 — the election he actually won – President George W. Bush proclaimed, “I earned capital in this campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it.” Bush garnered 286 electoral votes and called it a mandate.
Well, last month, President Barack Obama racked up a whopping 332 electoral votes in his re-election bid. Now, that’s a mandate.
At its heart, the 2012 campaign was about fairness. And there’s no better way for Obama to level the playing field than by letting the Bush tax cuts expire on the wealthiest 2 percent.
The Senate has already passed legislation S3412, providing tax relief for middle-class families. Right now, Obama would sign a bill extending tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans if it came across his desk. Yet, some stubborn House Republicans continue holding this plan hostage to keep the system rigged in favor of those at the tippy-top. Obama has drawn a line in cement that he’d veto any legislation continuing cuts for those making more than $250,000.
By any metric, America’s most affluent aren’t hurting. In fact, they’re far richer today than at any time in history — taking home a larger slice of total wealth and income than top earners have received in more than 80 years. If the Bush tax cuts were to expire for the top 2 percent, they’d still be able to keep up with the Kardashians.
Allowing the clock to run out on these cuts isn’t merely a symbolic gesture of finally shaking off the yoke of Bush’s failed legacy. There are practical, real-life implications, as well.
Currently, there’s a spirited discussion regarding how to stop our nation from falling off a fiscal cliff. By letting the Bush tax cuts lapse on top income earners, we’d take care of half that conundrum. About $1 trillion would come flooding in over the next decade, half-filling America’s coffers with the money needed to avoid the plunge off said cliff. That’s not a drop in the bucket. It’s a significant contribution toward what’s needed to put our nation back on sound financial footing.
Every year, millionaires receive, on average, $128,832 back from the Bush tax cuts. Economists across the board say this strategy is the least effective way to grow our economy. The very rich simply sit on the additional money, rather than re-circulating it. Ayn Rand’s silly theory that the super-wealthy are society’s saviors has smacked against reality time and time again. Prosperity won’t come from the top down. Rather, we need policies that stimulate and strengthen the middle class.
Furthermore, if we hand hedge fund managers more money to simply add to savings accounts and shore up stock portfolios, we won’t have the funds needed to rebuild our crumbling roads, bridges and energy grid or invest in education, health and innovation. Congress shouldn’t hold the middle class captive just to make sure the Scrooge McDucks of the world can continue swimming around in ever-deepening vaults of cash.
It’s also a canard to claim small businesses would be harmed by ending the Bush tax cuts for the top 2 percent. The truth is 97 percent of them would still see their tax cut extended. Many of the remaining “small-business owners” are lawyers, Wall Streeters and folks who classify as such to take advantage of tax loopholes.
Real small-business owners will tell you they don’t need tax reductions to help them grow. Rather, they need more customers with more money to purchase goods or use their services. Supplying tax cuts to the super-wealthy would purely perpetuate an unfair advantage by giving them more cash on hand, making it even more arduous for actual mom-and-pop stores to compete. So, it’s no surprise that a Small Business Majority poll shows 52 percent of business owners support letting tax cuts lapse for those making more than $250,000.
There is no rational argument for everyone’s taxes to go up just so billionaires get another cut. Congressional members from coast to coast — and especially here in New Jersey — should slip free of the shackles of Grover Norquist’s childish pledge. In terms of sheer self-interest alone, Republican representatives would be wise to stop holding middle-class tax relief hostage, lest constituents remember this in the mid-term elections.
An Americans for Tax Fairness poll shows 67 percent said “making the tax system more fair” was a “very” or “fairly important consideration in making their voting decisions” this year. More people believe in dropping the Bush tax cuts for the top 2 percent than even voted for Obama. The people have spoken from the ground up. They won’t stand for trickle-down economics any longer. This president truly has capital. And he is going to use it.
Elections are about much more than the names at the top of the ticket. They’re also about the ideas, policies and philosophies for which voters are truly pulling the lever. In 2012, the American people clamored for fairness. By allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire on the wealthiest income earners, Congress can show it is listening to the will of the people.
Joshua Henne is a founding partner of White Horse Strategies and New Jersey spokesman for The Action. You can follow @JoshuaHenne on Twitter.