Republicans will cave on the question of raising the tax rate for the highest-income Americans. The only question is whether they do so before or after the government goes over the so-called fiscal cliff.

First, many in the GOP do not believe that raising the rate on top earners from 35 percent to 39.6 percent (the rate before the Bush tax cuts) would seriously damage the economy. Second, they know that most Americans approve of higher taxes on the top bracket, and President Obama, having campaigned and won on that platform, seems dead-set on higher rates. Third, they fear that if the government does go over the cliff and Democrats propose re-lowering taxes for everyone except the highest earners, Republicans would be in the impossible position of resisting tax cuts for 98 percent of the country on behalf of the top 2 percent. …

Doing that would forestall the Democratic attack that the GOP will not bend on tax rates. Instead, it would be the president who’s not bending. Of course, Obama — and many in the media — would find other grounds to attack Republicans. But since the GOP is ultimately going to relent on the top tax rate, why not do it when it has some benefit?