Green Room

John Boehner … super-genius?

posted at 12:35 pm on January 29, 2013 by

So argues Ralph Benko at Forbes, in a column yesterday that takes a (ahem) different view of the strategies employed by the House Republican caucus and the Speaker over the last few weeks.  Benko may score on a few of his points, too:

In retrospect, at the Battle at Fiscal Cliff, Boehner took President Obama to the cleaners. He did it suavely, without histrionics. While Obama churlishly, and in a politically amateurish manner, publicly strutted about having forced the Republicans to raise tax rates on “the wealthiest Americans” Boehner, quietly, was pocketing his winnings.

Dazzled by Obama’s Ozymandias-scale sneer most liberals failed to notice that Boehner quietly made 99% of the Bush tax cuts permanent. As Boehner himself dryly observed, in an interview with TheWall Street Journal’s editorial board member Steve Moore, “”Who would have ever guessed that we could make 99% of the Bush tax cuts permanent? When we had a Republican House and Senate and a Republican in the White House, we couldn’t get that. And so, not bad.’”

That’s true, but it doesn’t take into account the GOP pledge to never raise taxes.  Republicans had argued that tax hikes would damage the economy, cost jobs, and drive down overall revenue, but they effectively lost that argument in the presidential election anyway.  Democrats committed a couple of years ago to permanent extensions of the other rates.  At best, this was a narrow loss, especially if the higher taxes drives down investment and pushes capital outside of the US.

Benko makes a great point about the AMT, though:

Yet his biggest win may have been in making the Alternative Minimum Tax patch permanent. This changes the baseline with profoundly positive implications for future tax reform and economic growth.

Boehner thereby won a triple jackpot, a bonanza for conservatives and supply-siders … while Obama, giving up all that for a trivial symbolic victory, lost his Progressive shirt. The mainstream media, with a few exceptions such as Howard Kurtz at the Daily Beast, was too deep in the tank to report that the Emperor has no clothes.

That much is true.  No longer can Congress or the White House pretend to “cut” taxes by assuming an AMT patch won’t happen, and the CBO won’t have to project revenues without an annual patch.  It would be akin to statutorily eliminating the “doc fix” in order to get an honest analysis of Medicare/Medicaid costs, rather than the easy manipulation provided by the statutory ambiguity.

Benko then predicts even bigger victories ahead for Boehner:

The Democrats, apparently, still don’t know what Boehner has hit them with. Thanks to the Sequester anti-profligacy conservatives now negotiate from strength. What are the implications of putting the Sequester fight before the debt ceiling fight? Steve Moore:

“The Republicans’ stronger card, Mr. Boehner believes, will be the automatic spending sequester trigger that trims all discretionary programs—defense and domestic. It now appears that the president made a severe political miscalculation when he came up with the sequester idea in 2011.

“As Mr. Boehner tells the story: Mr. Obama was sure Republicans would call for ending the sequester—the other ‘cliff’—because it included deep defense cuts. But Republicans never raised the issue. ‘It wasn’t until literally last week [columnist’s note: just before the deadline] that the White House brought up replacing the sequester,’ Mr. Boehner says. ‘They said, ‘We can’t have the sequester.’ They were always counting on us to bring this to the table.”

“Mr. Boehner says he has significant Republican support, including GOP defense hawks, on his side for letting the sequester do its work. ‘I got that in my back pocket,’ the speaker says. He is counting on the president’s liberal base putting pressure on him when cherished domestic programs face the sequester’s sharp knife. Republican willingness to support the sequester, Mr. Boehner says, is ‘as much leverage as we’re going to get.’”

I agree that Boehner has maneuvered into better position, but I think I’ll wait to see what he does with it before popping the bubbly.

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Dazzled by Obama’s Ozymandias-scale sneer most liberals failed to notice that Boehner quietly made 99% of the Bush tax cuts permanent.

No tax rates are permanent. If ANYONE believes that Democrats (and even Republicans, more than likely) aren’t going to raise taxes on the middle class in the future, they need their heads examined.

Big Government Robs The Middle Class Because That’s Where The Money Is!

Resist We Much on January 29, 2013 at 12:42 PM

John Roberts won a victory playing the long gambit by declaring Obamacare Constitutional as a tax.

John Boehner has won an astounding victory outmaneuvering Obama into giving us tax hikes.

Marco Rubio and John McCain are on the verge of finding us a victorious path toward the amnesty of millions of illegal immigrants, exacerbating the unemployment crisis and enrolling more pro-entitlement voters.

Never has it been such a victorious time to be a conservative!

Gingotts on January 29, 2013 at 12:49 PM

I don’t know that I’ll ever pop a cork for Boehner.

disa on January 29, 2013 at 12:50 PM

Gingotts on January 29, 2013 at 12:49 PM

There’s no victory until we have progressivism on the run.

disa on January 29, 2013 at 12:51 PM

Boehner simply doesn’t have the stones to be a great leader. If he had any leadership skills at all, he would have figured out how to get the tea party and the base to get on board for Romney. Instead, he ignored them like they don’t matter and they behaved like their votes don’t matter.

Weeper of the House should be shedding a few tears on camera any time now. Just remember who the last person was who cried on cue for a photo-op.

platypus on January 29, 2013 at 12:53 PM

I’ll have what he’s having. /

nobar on January 29, 2013 at 12:53 PM

Dazzled by Obama’s Ozymandias-scale sneer most liberals failed to notice that Boehner quietly made 99% of the Bush tax cuts permanent.

What about the change in deductions?

besser tot als rot on January 29, 2013 at 12:57 PM

No tax rates are permanent….
Resist We Much on January 29, 2013 at 12:42 PM

Technically true. But the fact that the tax cuts don’t expire automatically is a huge shift in the Dems ability to raise taxes in the future. I am no fan of Boehner, but it seems to me that we gained a lot for a relatively small concession.

topdog on January 29, 2013 at 12:58 PM

So why did Boehner regret the fiscal cliff deal?

rbj on January 29, 2013 at 12:58 PM

Yet his biggest win may have been in making the Alternative Minimum Tax patch permanent.

I will grant that this was a good strategic victory. But, I submit that it was pretty much the only one.

besser tot als rot on January 29, 2013 at 12:59 PM

That’s true, but it doesn’t take into account the GOP pledge to never raise taxes. Republicans had argued that tax hikes would damage the economy, cost jobs, and drive down overall revenue, but they effectively lost that argument in the presidential election anyway.

Right, but the choice was making the rates permanent for 99% and raising them on 1%, or raising them on everyone. Given that the GOP only controls the House and had just lost an election, they had little leverage to prevent any tax increases whatsoever. Given that, it is a victory that, in exchange, the other Bush cuts were made permanent.

changer1701 on January 29, 2013 at 1:06 PM

Never has it been such a victorious time to be a conservative!

When the balance of forces are arrayed overwhelming against you, it IS in fact quite the accomplishment to be able to get strategic long-term victories even as you are forced to cede the immediate tactical goal.

Fact: there was no way, no way whatsoever, that the Republicans could have won this fiscal cliff battle. None. This is a democratic republic, the people spoke, they gave the Presidency and the Senate to the Democrats, leaving the GOP with only one chamber of Congress. The only question was “how to lose,” so to speak: to concede a short term tactical setback and try to secure some long-term gains, or to simply do what the Tea Party wanted and destroy everything, burn it all to the ground in some sort of right-wing Gotterdaemmerung.

I know those fantasies deeply appeal to people around here, because we’re all feeling alienated by the left-turn in the country right now. But the’re barbaric, atavistic feelings that, even at their best, attempt to hang a bit of explanatory window-dressing (“by forcing a collapse, we’re actually HELPING because we’re heightening the contradictions!” <– Marxist language and thinking, whether you know it or not) on what is ultimately a purely emotional reaction of rage and despair.

I choose to live and fight later. There are no permanent victories in politics, and no permanent majorities either.

Esoteric on January 29, 2013 at 1:14 PM

I think I’ll wait to see what he does with it before popping the bubbly.

Still more likely we’ll be popping blood vessels.

Marcola on January 29, 2013 at 1:23 PM

Further, if “anyone” doubts me, then look to Europe.

If Europe is prologue…

Despite the “Austerity = Tea Party/Austrian Economics! E113veNty!!!111!!!” hysteria by idiots and propagandists like Paul Krugman, Ezra Klein, et al, European Austerity has NOTHING in common with that espoused by limited government/low taxation/spending cuts Americans. European leaders – of all stripes – knew that it was/is far easier to raise taxes than reform overall unsustainable entitlement programmes and cut spending.

Labour bankrupted the UK during its 13 year reign. Did the coalition led by “Conservative” [True, "conservative" in Europe does not mean the same thing as "conservative" in the US save for a few like Daniel Hannan, Nigel Farage (UKIP, but more conservative than Cameron), etc)] cut taxes and spending? No, it has actually increased spending to a level higher than Blair-Brown, raised taxes, and postponed meaningful spending cuts…indefinitely. Government spending as a percentage of GDP in 2007 was 40.3%. It was 45.3% in 2012.

[In some fairness, Osborne has reduced the top marginal rate from 50pc to 45pc after the "sock it to the rich" tax resulted in a loss of revenues to the Treasury of £509 million in January 2012 compared to the same month in 2011.]

Did “Conservative” Sarko cut spending and taxes after the recession? No. In fact, in 2012, he proposed even more tax increases and pledged to “sock it to the rich” even more than Hollande would, if reelected. And, Hollande has just pumped Sarko’s economic policies/proposals with steroids.

France’s government spending as a percentage of GDP: 52.6% in 2007; 55.8% in 2012.

Berlusconi increased taxes and Italy has increased spending. 47.6% as a percentage of GDP in 2007 and 50.1% in 2012.

Even though Merkel did cut some spending in areas, she, too, increased taxes and government spending has continued to grow in others. Government spending as a percentage of GDP was 45.1% in 2012 and 43.5% in 2007.

Even Spain’s spending increased. 2007: 39.2%. 2012: 42.0%.

Over the last decade, EU member states have collectively increased government spending by 62%. In 2012, average government spending by EU nations stood at approximately 49.2% of GDP — v. 44.8% in 2000.

On its own website, the EU itself ridicules the notion of government austerity as a “myth.”

“National budgets are NOT decreasing their spending, they are increasing it,” the EU says, noting that in 2011, 23 of the 27 nations in the EU increased spending. This year (2012), 24 of 27 will do so.”

American leaders will raise taxes before they cut spending because it is just sooooo must easier to demagogue and say, “How can you be against ‘the children’ and ‘the elderly’? Why does someone earning $75,000 a year need so much money? It’s one’s PATRIOTIC DUTY, as part of the middle class, to pay higher taxes in order to give others a ‘fair shot and fair shake’! And, you are just mean, selfish, greedy, racist, hateful, and treasonous, if you believe otherwise and refuse to do your ‘fair share’”

Politicians ALWAYS take the path of least resistance.

Resist We Much on January 29, 2013 at 1:24 PM

What you’re missing from that equation, Esoteric, is that ground ceded to progressives is never regained.

Even when they do not win major battles, they take their changes in increments, implementing their strategy over decades rather than months or years, and having established the precedent, stake their claim that we cannot ask the people to give up something on which they have themselves made those people dependent. There may be no permanent victories in politics, but there sure as heck have been a lot of entrenched losses.

See also: Social Security and Medicare.

LIB is not an act of petulance. It is seeing the writing on the wall, and refusing to allow these people to prop up any longer an ever-more-precarious house of cards. The longer this charade continues, the more broad and more devastating the effects of such a collapse will be felt. The result of such a “strategic withdrawal”, then, is actually to live and die later.

The Schaef on January 29, 2013 at 1:26 PM

Technically true. But the fact that the tax cuts don’t expire automatically is a huge shift in the Dems ability to raise taxes in the future. I am no fan of Boehner, but it seems to me that we gained a lot for a relatively small concession.

topdog on January 29, 2013 at 12:58 PM

True, but they will just come up with some excuse or crisis with which to exploit: “Yes, we made the Bush tax cuts permanent, but we just did not understand that the national debt would put us in such national jeopardy and, of course, we greatly underestimated the cost of Obamacare. In this new Republic based on social justice, we must raise taxes on the middle class so that those beneath them can continue to have free healthcare, housing, phones, cable, internet, etc! We apologise for having to do this, but we know what’s best for the country and you. We know that you — deep down — want us to do this so that you will not have a guilty conscience!”

Further, even if they are curtailed in raising “income” taxes, they are not from raising other taxes:

“Global warming will wipe out 50% of the population in 3 years. We MUST have a carbon tax and a VAT…NOW!”

Resist We Much on January 29, 2013 at 1:31 PM

Get a budget through the senate and we’ll talk.

Spinning is not winning.

ElectricPhase on January 29, 2013 at 1:38 PM

Esoteric on January 29, 2013 at 1:14 PM

Paint it however you want a loss is a loss. Does this one come with promises of victories later? Sure. Most political losses do. That we lost in 2012 makes it more likely that we’ll pick up seats in 2014 and increases the chance that 2016 will bring a Republican to the White House. The simple fact of the matter though is that those victories are nothing until they are earned well down the road, and that hasn’t happened yet. Once we reclaim the narrative, then it is time for the accolades and the historical reminiscence of how Boehner limited the damage when times are tough. For now, though there is no guarantee that things will get better. Far more likely that there are a dozen or so more crap sandwiches coming down the line, in fact.

All too often conservatives have been told to shut up and eat the loss in favor of a long term gambit that never comes to pass. Wasn’t the Obamacare ruling supposed to fire up the base into ditching the easy way out in favor of electing a GOP government promising full repeal? Didn’t happen. Now it’s here to stay, and guess what? Government never gives up power once it’s been taken from the people.

And hell, I say all this as among the more pragmatic sorts in the conservative movement. Though as much as you like to talk down to the “let it burn” believers this isn’t about screwing the country in order to make a point. Indeed, that is Marxist reasoning but it is not the reasoning behind “L.I.B.” The understanding there is in fact that it is a foregone conclusion that it will burn, so might as well get it out of the way now rather than slowly and painfully over the next decade.

Now if the next conservative leader wants to stand out, be it Ryan, Jindal, Paul, Boehner, whoever… they’ll do so by convincing conservatives that decline and collapse isn’t inevitable, and explaining how exactly we will repair the damage that we’re taking in such wonderfully limited doses now. Engineer those 2014 and 2016 victories that were not accomplished in 2012, and prove to us that the next GOP government will be worth fighting for, and that we aren’t overrun by decadent fools concerned only with their timely handouts and tolerance toward their sexual perversions. Otherwise this is just praise for giving us a slower retreat into the darkness than we could have.

Gingotts on January 29, 2013 at 1:39 PM

LIB is not an act of petulance. It is seeing the writing on the wall, and refusing to allow these people to prop up any longer an ever-more-precarious house of cards.

First of all, for many/most people out there pushing the LiB line, it IS an act of petulance, as is perfectly clear from the tone and manner they use the phrase in (and what they say surrounding it).

However, to address the argument you are making, there are two considerations: first, you make a grievous mistake in thinking that a hasty collapse would lead to a better outcome than a slow one. Slow downward declines are awful, but you know what’s worse? Sudden implosions that lead to authoritarian political solutions. What makes you so sure that the political order that emerges from the wreck and ruin would be a model of democratic republican ideals? The “unique heritage” of America or somesuch? I have no such confidence, as a student of history. I think it far more likely that the mass misery and economic uncertainty leads to a populace that is far more willing to sacrifice freedom, upward mobility, and economic opportunity for the promise of security. THAT is human nature (at its worst, admittedly, but human nature nonetheless). There are far, far more scared collectivists out there than rugged, go-it-alone individualists. A sudden and catastrophic collapse in our economy and entitlement system isn’t going to lead to a small-government libertarian paradise, it’s going to bring us even closer to a state-driven economy.

Second, as a practical matter, the only way any progress is every going to be made politically in this country is through the Republicans. (Or, if you hate the Republican Party, let’s just say “parties on the Right.”) The Democrats will NEVER right the ship, due to their demographic and institutional allegiances as well as ideological moorings. You seem to think that if the Republicans (through intransigence, albeit principled intransigence) force a catastrophic collapse that the nation’s voters will sit up and say “oh man, conservatives were RIGHT! This IS all the fault of Democratic addiction to spending!” But of course that’s farcical. What they will instead think is “this wouldn’t have happened if the GOP hadn’t been so hatefully irresponsible.” We would be dooming the nation not only to economic ruin (and that affects the lives of my family, I might point out: there are real people here, whose lifespans do not get an “automatic do-over” once we’ve figured stuff out), but to a half-century or more of Democratic rule.

I’ll pass on that.

Esoteric on January 29, 2013 at 1:43 PM

And hell, I say all this as among the more pragmatic sorts in the conservative movement. Though as much as you like to talk down to the “let it burn” believers this isn’t about screwing the country in order to make a point. Indeed, that is Marxist reasoning but it is not the reasoning behind “L.I.B.” The understanding there is in fact that it is a foregone conclusion that it will burn, so might as well get it out of the way now rather than slowly and painfully over the next decade.

No, you don’t seem to understand Marxist thought. The Marxist take on this is indeed EXACTLY what you said in your last sentence: the collapse of the current social/economic order is inevitable and foreordained, therefore let us do whatever we can to hurry the process along by “heightening the contradictions” inherent in the capitalist system. The LiB’ers are merely taking that same exact train of thought and repurposing it for their own agenda.

Esoteric on January 29, 2013 at 1:46 PM

Esoteric on January 29, 2013 at 1:43 PM

1. The difference between a collapse now and a slow one later? We’ll be here to fight for the good guys if it comes now. Slowly later, allows more sheep to be won over by the left and the dictatorial solution comes in more quietly. Does either situation guarantee that we come out ahead? No. That’s why it sucks. LIB comes from the understanding that we’re already in a situation that is irreparable in it’s current form. (Don’t know that I believe it one way or the other. I’m uncertain. I too am a student of history, and I have to say it doesn’t look particularly good…) If it falls now, then we can fight now. At the very least, should the statists win we’ll start the usual two generations that a dictatorship lasts sooner rather than later. Our grandchildren will at least be able to see freedom.

2. A more valid question then is what will make people wake up and understand the conservatives are and have been right? We’re in agreement that the left never has and never will have the answers. So does yielding to them slowly prove to people that our answers are better? Also remember to factor in that we’ve lost the news media. It is no longer even just varyingly slanted; it is a full unabashed propaganda machine for the political left. How do we articulate our case through and beyond that? Thinking all will be better after a collapse and thinking all will be better with some mild concessions and another couple of cycles is simply believing in two different types of magic.

I’m not even sure where I stand on all this. Overall I believe that the only difference between those conservatives that want to work it out and those that believe it’s LIB is that the former think it is 1920′s Weimar Germany and the latter believe it is 1933. Is there yet a new Stresemann out there, and can he do a better job than the original? If so, they’d better step up now.

Gingotts on January 29, 2013 at 2:02 PM

Esoteric on January 29, 2013 at 1:46 PM

Marxist thought argues that the social/economic status quo is in consistent flux, as a new dialectic comes along in contrast with it’s antithesis to provide a new synthesis. To the Marxist this is all governed by the ongoing class struggle for the control of economic power. You aren’t the only one here who has attended freshman level philosophy classes, so you can get over that.

There is a difference to arguing the r word as an ideological point of view and standing in the early stages of one and pointing out the realities of the time. Obviously there have been a lot of false cries in history… but not all of them.

But yeah, nobody worry here. Kerensky has got this.

Gingotts on January 29, 2013 at 2:13 PM

Esoteric on January 29, 2013 at 1:14 PM

I’d rather go for the scorched earth technique. Let this country fail, let the moochers start to rape, loot, steal and murder when their bennies run dry, and let the evil forces conquer the US so that we can finally see some tangible change for once.

A line has to be drawn. Let the Socialists own whatever despair, tumult and chaos descends upon us as the US emits its last breath. They may blame conservatives, but on the other side of this mortal coil, justice will be swift and everlasting. That I have no doubt over.

Myron Falwell on January 29, 2013 at 2:32 PM

Working americans saw less in their paychecks due to payroll tax increase. I’m sure that hits some of the 99%

Joey24007 on January 29, 2013 at 2:48 PM

On the long run, making the Bush tax cuts (rates) permanent on over 99% of the income earners is a major strategic defeat to the democrats and liberalism… Remember that liberals hate any tax cuts and love tax increases on everyone, it is the heart of liberalism and socialism. Moreover without massive tax increases on everyone they cannot fund their ever expending Welfare State which is the ultimate tool to get the parasites to vote for them in the tens of millions. It will be a political suicide for them if they go back and demand higher taxes on the middle class and hence they are going to cause the collapse of the welfare state in the future…

mnjg on January 29, 2013 at 2:52 PM

No tax rates are permanent. If ANYONE believes that Democrats (and even Republicans, more than likely) aren’t going to raise taxes on the middle class in the future, they need their heads examined.

Big Government Robs The Middle Class Because That’s Where The Money Is!

Resist We Much on January 29, 2013 at 12:42 PM

It is true that no tax cut or tax increase is permanent as shown in the history of our Republic however increasing taxes on the middle class is a political suicide for the democrats. In order to fund their massive Welfare State that is expending day after day the liberals need to massively tax the middle class which will be a political suicide… So if they do not tax the middle class in the future their Welfare State will collapse and they will get the anger of the tens of millions of parasites who vote for them… So on the long run making the Bush tax cuts (rates) “permanent” is a huge strategic defeat for the democrats and liberals…

mnjg on January 29, 2013 at 2:57 PM

So why did Boehner regret the fiscal cliff deal?

rbj on January 29, 2013 at 12:58 PM

With the first debt ceiling fight he had an agreement with Obama finished… then Obama decided he needed hundreds of billions more in taxes functionally trashing a deal he’d already agreed to.

If you’re up against Obama you cry about how horrible the deal was until it’s far too late for Obama to figure out you’re happy; or the deal will change for the worse.

That doesn’t make it a good deal; but it does mean good or bad Boehner would have to act the exact same way to avoid Obama renegotiating after the deal was agreed on.

When you’re dealing with a cheat and a crook you need a good poker face.

gekkobear on January 29, 2013 at 3:43 PM

It is true that Boehner got most of what he wanted. However, the voters, thanks to the media, think Obama gave them the tax cuts, etc.
So how does it do the GOP any good?

PattyJ on January 29, 2013 at 4:33 PM

He is a super genius unless you are part of the 1%, and then he is a traitor. Just sayin’

txmomof6 on January 29, 2013 at 10:06 PM

“Global warming will wipe out 50% of the population in 3 years. We MUST have a carbon tax and a VAT…NOW!”

Resist We Much on January 29, 2013 at 1:31 PM

Of course if global warming actually WOULD wipe out 50% of the population in 3 years, the Believers would be celebrating.

Humans, after all, are a cancer upon the Earth…

climbnjump on January 30, 2013 at 12:47 AM

mnjg on January 29, 2013 at 2:57 PM

It will depend upon whether it is easier for politicians to raise taxes on the middle class or MASSIVELY CUT Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education spending, food stamps, transportation, etc. From my experience, I believe that I know the answer.

The math doesn’t add up…and THAT’S THE PROBLEM…and, when push comes to shove, politicians will raise taxes on the middle class before they make the deep cuts necessary to entitlement programmes.

Resist We Much on January 30, 2013 at 6:31 AM

Bo(eh)ner is definitely related to Wile E. Coyote.

Steve Eggleston on January 30, 2013 at 8:13 AM

A Pyrrhic victory does not equal victory.

Except inside Boehner’s head, every time.

Difficultas_Est_Imperium on January 31, 2013 at 11:30 AM