Listen to the broadcast of You Tell Me on KTBB AM 600, Friday, November 16, 2012.
One day when I was a small boy growing up in Amarillo, Texas it was bitterly cold outside. Bitterly cold in a way unique to the panhandle of Texas, where the wags were fond of saying there’s nothing between Amarillo and the North Pole except for a barbed wire fence at Dumas. On those days in Amarillo, a north wind at 25 miles an hour would combine with a daytime high temperature in the teens to create cold that cut through human flesh like a knife.
I wanted to play outside. My mother said it was too cold. I wasn’t having it and insisted on playing outside. My mother wasn’t having me not having it. Back and forth we went with increasing volume, all day, me whining about wanting to go outside, my mother saying, “no.” By the end of the day both of us were very unhappy with one another.
In the middle of our bickering my dad came home. “What’s wrong?,” he asked. “Your son wants to play outside and it’s too cold and I’m tired of arguing with him about it,” said my mom. Dad looked at my mom, looked at me and then said, “You want to play outside, boy? Go put on your jacket and have fun.”
Over my mother’s strident objection, out the door into the howling wind and mid-teens temperatures I went.
But then, before my mom could tune herself up on my dad, back inside I came. It was too cold. An argument between my mother and me that had been running for hours was settled in minutes.
My father’s wisdom in that situation lay in allowing me to bear the responsibility for my own bad idea.
So it is now, I believe, with respect to the argument between Republicans and Democrats regarding the so-called “fiscal cliff.” Democrats believe that an indispensible key to solving the country’s massive fiscal problems lies in raising top rates on high-income earners back to 39.6 percent, the rate that prevailed prior to the reductions implemented under President Bush.
Raising tax rates is the only specific thing that the president and Democrats propose. If the “rich” (defined as a married couple with annual taxable income greater than $250,000) will only pay their “fair share” say the Democrats, the resulting revenue, taken together with some tinkering here and there with Medicare and Medicaid at some indeterminate date in the future, will result in balanced budgets, shrinking debt and prosperity for one and all.
Republicans, of course, know better. The most cursory review of easily-obtained IRS data and some very basic arithmetic clearly shows that raising taxes on those earning more than $250,000 will do exactly nothing to reduce the deficit. With respect to the yawning chasm that is the American balance sheet, the revenue resulting from raising tax rates — which naively assumes that those affected will simply stand there and take the haircut even though history shows that they won’t — can’t even legitimately claim the title of rounding error.
But Republicans are losing this PR battle. For all of the soundness of the Republican position, it’s just not getting through.
So it’s time now to apply the wisdom of Harvey Gleiser. Just as he let me have what I wanted, let the Democrats have what they want. They’re going to win anyway so give them their higher tax rates. Demand exactly nothing in return – save that they accept responsibility for the results.
Just make sure that when unemployment goes up, when more people go on food stamps, when the deficit continues to expand while gross domestic product continues to shrink, when the debt marches toward $20 trillion and when four years of stagnation stretches toward eight, that the Democrats get the credit that they will have earned.
Given the results of the election, the Republicans should conspicuously get out of the Democrats’ way.
At this point in history, I can think of no better way for Republicans to make their case.