Axelrod: Talk of mandate foolish except when it comes to tax hikes, or something

I’m old enough to remember when David Axelrod dismissed claims of mandates from close presidential elections as “foolish” and “generally untrue.”  Oh, wait — that was just last week.  In fact, Axelrod specifically rejected the idea at that time that Barack Obama had won a mandate for raising taxes.  He argued instead that the results were a message that voters wanted “cooperation,” while noting that Obama ran on the push for a Buffett-rule hike.

Yesterday, Axelrod changed his tune:

“On this particular issue, it wasn’t close,” Axlerod said, citing exit polling that show about 60 percent of voters agreed with Obama’s position on taxes.

“It is obvious that we can’t resolve the nation’s problems simply by cutting [spending],” Axelrod said. “Where is that revenue gonna come from? President Obama believes it is more equable for it to come from the wealthiest Americans, and most Americans agree with that.”

Ahem.  Just how much revenue would Obama’s tax hike produce a year, anyway?  The most optimistic estimates, based on static tax analysis, is $50 billion a year.  In a trillion-dollar deficit, Obama’s tax hike leaves 95% of the problem unsolved.  That doesn’t mean that new revenue can’t or won’t be part of a compromise, but the problem isn’t revenue, and it won’t be solved without massive spending cuts or confiscatory tax rates on a scale not seen in decades in this country.

Axelrod was closer to the mark when he first claimed that the vote retaining the status quo in Washington was intended to get the two parties to work on a compromise solution.  In that vein, John Boehner took steps this weekend to rein in his caucus — and seems to have succeeded, thanks to the dispiriting results from last Tuesday:

On a conference call with House Republicans a day after the party’s electoral battering last week, Speaker John A. Boehner dished out some bitter medicine, and for the first time in the 112th Congress, most members took their dose.

Their party lost, badly, Mr. Boehner said, and while Republicans would still control the House and would continue to staunchly oppose tax rate increases as Congress grapples with the impending fiscal battle, they had to avoid the nasty showdowns that marked so much of the last two years.

Members on the call, subdued and dark, murmured words of support — even a few who had been a thorn in the speaker’s side for much of this Congress.

It was a striking contrast to a similar call last year, when Mr. Boehner tried to persuade members to compromise with Democrats on a deal to extend a temporary cut in payroll taxes, only to have them loudly revolt.

Boehner has to come up with some way to avoid the fiscal cliff in the next seven weeks, and that will require painful compromise from both parties.  We’ll see if Boehner succeeds in holding the caucus together, or whether his steps will produce a floor fight for his gavel.

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