The Communication Cliff
Republicans should be less worried about the Fiscal Cliff than about their own Communication Cliff. It seems that the GOP leadership has been gripped by a great communicative ineptitude, and until they escape from its grasp, they will continue to languish in political poverty, taking blame for fake crisis after fake crisis manufactured by the Democrats for the express purpose of placing blame for our nation’s continuing economic woes at the feet of the Republican Party.
Our nation’s leaders have been focused on this Fiscal Cliff for weeks now, and it is just now, after the damage has been done, that House Speaker John Boehner is finally presenting a strong message condemning President Obama’s playing politics with this issue. There has been so much potential in this “crisis” for Republicans to get out in front of the issues and turn circumstances to their favor, yet each opportunity has been a missed opportunity.
Democrats have been extremely successful in controlling the narrative throughout their multitude of manufactured crises – every time our nation nears the debt limit or tax rates get close to expiration, it ends up becoming an opportunity for the DNC to label the “do-nothing Congress” as a bunch of right-wing extremists. Nancy Pelosi has labeled Congressional Republicans “hostage takers” for what I believe is the third or fourth time now, and the message coming from the White House is that it is Republicans’ refusal to raise tax rates on the rich that is holding up the negotiations.
The truth, however, tells an entirely different story.
One of the biggest problems for our nation’s fiscal standing has been our lack of a budget, and this is where charges of a “do-nothing Congress” are proven completely false. While the Republican-controlled Congress has passed several budgets over the past three years, each and every one of them has died a quick and painful death in the Senate. In fact, the only real progress the Senate has made on budgets over the past three years has been to vote down President Obama’s budget proposals, all of which have met with bipartisan opposition of gargantuan proportions. Meanwhile, the Senate has produced not one single budget proposal of their own, all thanks to the leadership of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. In fact, the Republican Congress has passed bill after bill to try and improve the nation’s unemployment situation, yet the Senate hasn’t even really acknowledged that those bills exist.
Harry Reid has played his political cards right, and created a situation wherein it is to the Democrats’ political advantage for him to do nothing but spout useless demagoguery while preventing any legislation that might help our economy from ever coming to a vote in the United States Senate.
Then there are the constant accusations that each and every Congressional Republican has sold their soul to Grover Norquist, and therefore is completely unable to raise taxes due to Norquist’s evil voodoo magic…or something like that. To hear the Democrats tell it, you would think that Grover Norquist is some sort of horned beast who forces Republicans to sign tax pledges in a mysterious cabalistic ritual.
But Republicans have signed tax pledges because raising taxes depresses economic activity – and it doesn’t matter whether times are good or bad, the fact is that higher tax rates lead to lower tax revenues. But Democrats have used the words “tax increase” and “revenue increase” interchangeably, as though they are one and the same, and their efforts to get people to equate higher taxes with higher revenues have been so successful that even some Republicans have begun using the words “increase revenue” when they should be saying “raise taxes.”
The historical evidence does not lie: lower tax rates lead to higher tax revenues. This evidence is borne out not only through the Bush tax cuts, but also through tax cuts implemented by Ronald Reagan and, of all people, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. In fact, it was Democratic icon JFK who probably put it best:
“In short, it is a paradoxical truth that … the soundest way to raise the revenues in the long run is to cut the rates now. The experience of a number of European countries and Japan have borne this out. This country’s own experience with tax reduction in 1954 has borne this out. And the reason is that only full employment can balance the budget, and tax reduction can pave the way to that employment. The purpose of cutting taxes now is not to incur a budget deficit, but to achieve the more prosperous, expanding economy which can bring a budget surplus.”
Kennedy spent quite a bit of time and effort arguing for lower taxes for the exact same reasons that Republicans argue for them today. If Democrats had any modicum of intellectual honesty, they would take a lesson from history, and from one of their own party’s heroes, and abandon their tax-the-rich schemes, but instead they doggedly cling to the lies they have promulgated that raising taxes will lead to more revenue.
And we don’t even need to go back to Kennedy, Reagan, or even George W. Bush to see this lesson played out. Just last month, the news came out that England’s tax-the-rich scheme had backfired on them. They passed the same kind of tax scheme that the Democrats are pushing for, but instead of raising revenues, they saw revenues drop. As it turns out, Great Britain’s wealthy didn’t like being demonized and saddled with even higher tax rates, so they packed up and left. Even here in California, voters passed a tax-the-rich bill promoted by Governor Jerry Brown and California’s teachers’ unions, and we have already seen rich Californians leaving the state, and tax revenues dropping…and the tax hikes don’t even kick in until January 1.
So the truth is, by doggedly refusing to acknowledge the historical evidence and by continually pushing forward with their class warfare schemes, the Democrats are engaged in a campaign to depress our economy and bankrupt our government.
The big question now is, what can Republicans in Congress do to overcome the vast messaging gap that exists between them and the Democrats? After all, the vast majority of the American media is complicit in promoting Obama’s agenda, so the GOP has their work cut out for them on the messaging front.
The first, and perhaps the most important thing Republican leadership needs to focus on is keeping their base happy. The recent announcements that the GOP is moving members of the Tea Party caucus out of important committee positions, combined with the revelation that they didn’t even let those Congressmen know about it – Congressman Tim Huelskamp of Kansas recently announced that he first heard he had lost his committee position on the news. The Tea Party is made up of ordinary Americans, many of whom are and get their information from the conservative New Media: the blogosphere. The Tea Party is getting ready for some major mobilizations over the coming years to protest the Democrats’ out-of-control spending. The GOP cannot afford to fall into the Tea Party’s cross-hairs; doing so could very well lead to their defeat in 2014 and the loss of control of the House. What’s more, the conservative blogosphere could be a great weapon the Republican Party could use to combat the media inequality they face.
But perhaps the most important action the GOP can take is to consistently stand up for conservatism. Too often we have seen the Republican leadership using the same verbiage the Democrats have used to muddy the waters. Previous manufactured crises have led to major political victories for the Democrats because John Boehner and other Republican leaders failed to stand up for conservatism, instead caving in to the Democrats’ agenda in exchange for a few breadcrumbs.
The biggest way for Republicans to secure defeat in 2014 and perhaps again in 2016 would be for them to cave on the Fiscal Cliff. President Obama, his representatives in the White House, and the Democrats in the Senate are all negotiating in bad faith. None of them have any intention of reaching a reasonable compromise. Our president is dedicated to politics above all – it was only a few weeks after the presidential election that President Obama began campaigning for his entirely unreasonable proposal using the #My2K hashtag on Twitter…and it doesn’t matter to Obama that Republicans’ concessions essentially give Obama everything that he wanted; he wants to have his cake and eat it, too.
The biggest mistake Republicans can make right now is to continue to approach these crucial negotiations from a position of weakness. The GOP continues to approach these negotiations as though they have no power over anything, and their negotiating position is only a lame attempt to glean some meaningless concession out of the Democrats so that they can save some face. It met with marginal success the first few times, but conservatives have grown understandably frustrated.
Every time we have one of these manufactured crises, we end up with a compromise that is good for the Democrats politically, but bad for the nation’s financial future. It is time for the Republicans to stand up for what is right, and craft a political message that makes it very clear to conservatives that they understand the importance of actually protecting and defending the Constitution of these United States, and that they will no longer cave to the political pressures that continually push them toward accepting the easy solution, rather than the solution that will actually start America down a path toward fixing our financial problems.
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