Three weeks ago, Rep. Paul Ryan expressed considerable skepticism about whether Barack Obama would back down on raising taxes, calling him a “class warrior” who honestly believed that tax rates should go up. Has Ryan changed his mind about the President after Obama cut a deal to freeze income tax and capital-gains rates? Not exactly. As Ryan explained to Neil Cavuto yesterday, Obama’s rhetoric in announcing the deal shows him to still be a “class warrior” interested in “class warfare.” Click on the image to watch:
This more or less echoes what Ryan said about Obama in November:
A day earlier, Ryan slammed Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Democrats, and the media for attempting to frame this as anything else but a debate over tax hikes, not cuts:
WALLACE: Well, I don’t understand. Why — I mean, I understand that stimulus has become a politically loaded word, but why isn’t it a stimulus? Tax cuts are a stimulus. You guys think that they’re the best kind of stimulus.
RYAN: Look, only in Washington is not raising taxes considered a tax cut. Nobody’s getting a tax cut here. We’re not cutting taxes. We’re preventing tax increases from occurring.
If we were actually cutting tax rates, then we might have a stimulus. We’re not actually cutting tax rates here. We’re simply preventing them from being increased. That is why we do not see this as particularly stimulative. It just prevents bad policies going forward.
It’s just another form of demagoguery, albeit a bit milder than talk of “hostage takers.” The deal doesn’t cut income and cap-gain taxes; it merely keeps the rates that have been in place for the last seven years in place for another two years, as well as limit an increase in the estate tax. There is a tax holiday on FICA that will last for a year, which replaces the Making Work Pay cut that did nothing for the past two years to stimulate consumption, but that is an attempt at stimulus instead of lowering taxes in any serious or methodical manner.
When the demagoguery ends, then we’ll know that Obama is serious about actually changing his policies and moving toward the middle. Otherwise, this is a tactical surrender and not triangulation at all.