“If we’re just going to do class warfare and get tax increases out of this, then I don’t think much will come of it,” Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said on “Fox News Sunday,” responding to news that the president plans on Monday to propose a minimum tax rate for those making more than $1 million a year.
First reported in the New York Times, the millionaire tax plan is the latest installment in Obama’s job creation and deficit reduction plan. Republicans have said that they are committed to finding areas of agreement with the president but have assailed virtually all the specifics of his jobs plan, which would include payroll tax cuts and transportation and school infrastructure investments.
On the Sunday talk show circuit, Republicans rejected Obama’s millionaire tax idea out of hand. It’s been dubbed the “Buffett Rule,” thanks to billionaire investor Warren Buffett’s public arguments that the wealthiest Americans pay taxes at a lower rate than middle-class workers.
“We don’t want to stagnate this economy by raising taxes,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” The Kentucky Republican added that the GOP is “not opposed to more revenue” but endorses tax reform as the way to achieve that end.
On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) sounded a similar note. Arguing that “tax policy is jobs policy,” the South Carolina Republican said that an overhaul of the federal tax code that is flatter and simpler would do more to stimulate job growth than creating new layers of tax breaks and tax increases. He also reiterated the GOP view that new federal policies on health care and financial services have created uncertainty in those sectors that has stalled job growth.
But Sen. Majority Whip Dick Durbin, appearing on the same program, insisted that the elements of the president’s new jobs proposal are popular among voters. The Illinois Democrat added that he would support raising income taxes.
“If it’s on people who are wealthy and comfortable and wouldn’t even notice it? Yes,” he said.
Durbin said the president’s jobs plan will be a topic of debate in the Senate beginning next week but added that it’s more realistic to expect the bill itself to be on the floor in October.
Economist Alice Rivlin, also on CNN, echoed the view of many conservatives that the time has come for a structural change in the tax system. On the president’s proposal to offer tax incentives to small businesses to hire more people, she said: “At the margin, it could help and that’s good.”
But on the president’s Buffett Rule, she said, “The way to fix the tax code is to fix the tax code, not to add another complication.”
The jobs and tax debate is emerging as a flash point in the intensifying 2012 presidential campaign. Graham said Obama has done “everything in his power” to make himself a one-term president with policies that have made a bad economy worse. But Durbin argued that the election is still 14 months away and that Obama will not be running against a “black box” but an opponent who brings flaws of his or her own.
Durbin said the GOP will have trouble selling a candidate who has earned the support of the tea party movement and its confrontational approach to policy disputes.
“Remember, the tea party is not very popular in America,” Durbin said. “I don’t think people like that style of politics, and that’s what we’ll be facing in November 2012.”
President Bill Clinton, appearing on Sunday with McConnell on “Meet the Press,” gave Obama’s jobs plan a thumbs up. He pointed to independent economic analysis that suggests that, if adopted, the plan will boost gross domestic product and reduce unemployment in 2012, but he added, “I doubt that Republicans want that to happen in 2012.”
Clinton acknowledged the economic pressures that have thrown Obama on the defensive, saying the president has “been dealt a tough hand.” But he added: “I think he’s got a plan now, he’s on the right track. And I don’t think the poll numbers mean much right now.”