There is a lot of reporting that Republicans voted for a tax increase for the first time in decades when both the House and Senate voted to approve the “fiscal cliff” bill. This is false. While it could be seen as a technicality, it’s a technicality that matters when it comes to politics in Washington.
No Republican voted for a tax increase. No Republican violated the Grover Norquist tax pledge.
For many months now the mainstream media, political blogs, including this blog, have speculated whether we would have to go off the cliff to make it possible for the top tax rate to revert to the Clinton-era rate of 39.6%. It was the only way Republicans could go along with it since it would mean they did not have to vote for a tax increase. Now that this scenario has come to pass, the media is suddenly suffering from mass-amnesia. The “Bush tax cuts” expired with 2012. That means tax rates went up for all Americans. The votes in the Senate and the House happened on January 1, 2013. Indeed, we went off the cliff. The Senate and the House voted to avert the effects of the fiscal cliff (well, on the tax side at least), not the cliff itself.
The Washington Post reports (“Congress approves ‘fiscal cliff’ measure“):
The bill will indeed shield millions of middle-class taxpayers from tax increases set to take effect this month. But it also will let rates rise on wages and investment profits for households pulling in more than $450,000 a year, marking the first time in more than two decades that a broad tax increase has been approved with GOP support.
And the LA Times gets their headline correct (“House approves ‘fiscal cliff’ deal, rescinding broad tax hike“), but then reports:
[T]he decision by Boehner (R-Ohio) to bring the bill to a vote rankled many Republicans. The compromise, they complained, did virtually nothing to cut spending. And while it kept the low George W. Bush-era tax rates for most Americans, the tax hikes it did contain were anathema to lawmakers who had sworn to oppose any increase. Indeed, passage of the bill in the Senate marked the first time in two decades that any Republican in Congress had voted for an income tax increase.
And the liberal blog Addicting Info reports (“Republicans Do The Impossible – Raise Tax Rates On The Wealthy“):
After a lot of false bravado, the Republican members of Congress collectively tucked their tails between their legs and passed the White House and Senate approved deal to avert the so-called fiscal cliff.
My response? — No, no and NO!
I think this serves as an object lesson in the follow-the-leader mentality that exists within the mainstream media and then filters its way down to hundreds, even thousands of news and political blogs. And before you think that I’m standing righteously on my perch, untouched by this phenomenon, I humbly concede that even this blog, with the tagline of (“We Don’t Break The News; It’s Already Broken.”), is not immune from the gravitational pull that is the narrative put forth by the mainstream media.
But in this case, I’m not falling for it.
As I’ve explained in the past, the fiscal cliff was neither “fiscal” nor a “cliff,” but for the sake of making sure we are all on the same page, I’ve continued to use the term. And as I said, for months we’ve talked about the fact that we may have to “go off the cliff” to allow Republicans to vote on what will technically be a tax decrease, not a tax increase. I realize the net effect is that taxes for top earners will increase, I just want people to acknowledge the carnival that was on display by Republicans in Washington. It’s simply too convenient that the Senate and House votes did not come until the new year, when all tax rates had already gone up.
It seems many on the Left are motivated to go along with today’s mainstream media narrative because they want to be able to say Republicans caved and voted for a tax increase. If that’s the kind of political victory that satisfies you, well, I’d advise you to aim a little higher next time.
And sure, there was no pain from our collective cliff dive, which means the effects of the “fiscal cliff” did not happen — but we still went off the cliff.