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Window of Opportunity


We on this list have on several occasions had discussions as to whether the Democrats ever had the votes in the 111th Congress to pass a tax increase.

If my research is accurate from July 7, 2009 to August 25, 2009, and September 25, 2009 to February 4, 2010, the US Senate had only 40 (39 at one point) Republican Party Members. To establish a filibuster 41 votes are required. During that period the Republicans by themselves apparently could not muster a filibuster to block a Democratic Party attempt to raise taxes.

During the same period The US House had over 250 Democratic Party members - more than enough to pass a tax increase if so inclined.

It would seem that there was at least a four month window of opportunity during the 111th Congress to pass a tax increase (any version favored by Democrats) if the party leadership could have held their respective caucus to the task. Does anybody know what happened?


jhawkinsf 5 years, 4 months ago

"Does anybody know what happened?"

I suspect you do.

Fossick 5 years, 4 months ago

Nothing happened. Because we are not a European-style parliamentary democracy, the Dems cannot demand that their members vote a certain way any more than the GOP can. Of course, that does not excuse them for responsibility for what happened (or didn't happen) while they were in charge.

Just as the GOP gets responsibility for everything that passed 2001-2006* - especially NCLB, PATRIOT, and Medicare D - the Dems get tagged for everything that happened in the first 2 years of Obama's term, or everything that didn't happen.

It's only fair. But it's also what's so funny about the current occupant of the Oval Office simultaneously a) complaining that the GOP blocked him, and b) asking for 4 more years to save us all. If he's so weak that a super-minority GOP could so snooker him, for what possible reason should he be elected again?

Don't get me wrong, better him than Romney, but I'd rather see him playing golf than saving the world, all things considered. And Joe Biden should be Vice President forever.

  • Dear God, was I ever happy to see them get a baby-seal thrashing in 2006.

jafs 5 years, 4 months ago

I thought the question had to do with the Bush tax cuts, and letting them expire on the rich, but not the middle and lower classes?

As far as I know, the Bush tax cuts weren't set to expire in 2009-10, right?

It was claimed that Obama "had the votes" to do that, but chose not to.

jafs 5 years, 4 months ago

Well, from just a little research, it appears that my original sense was right, and that R vowed to block his plan.

A compromise was reached that he'd let the tax cuts continue, if the R let unemployment benefits be extended.

So, that seems to be what happened.

My guess is that they weren't discussing the tax cuts at the very beginning of 2010, and by the time they got around to it, the D didn't have the votes to overcome a filibuster. So after February, it was too late.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 4 months ago

Speaking very, very generally, these types of things happen all the time.

The very reason that the tax issue was coupled with the unemployment issue was specifically because it was the result of compromises made in within the legislative branch. The compromises between the Republicans and Democrats had already been made. Whether or not additional compromises would be necessary between the executive and legislatives branches should not diminish the fact that compromises had already been made.

jafs 5 years, 4 months ago

The reason the compromise was made was because one party didn't have the votes to prevail against opposition.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 4 months ago

I think the whole point of the blog was to remind everyone that there was a window of opportunity when the Democrats had enough votes in Congress to do whatever they wanted to do, along with a President that would sign whatever legislation they passed. If, for whatever reason, Democrats chose not to avail themselves of that window of opportunity, that's on them. They could have raised taxes, lowered taxes, on the rich, on the poor, whatever. Their lack of decisiveness, their lack of leadership should be seen in equal light as the "Bush tax cuts for the rich". - At least that's my interpretation of the blog.

jafs 5 years, 4 months ago

According to the blog, they had a couple of months here and a couple of months there out of their 1st 2 years, split up a bit.

That's not really a lot of time to craft and pass new legislation, if we want our legislators to be acting intelligently and responsibly, I think.

If I recall correctly, at first they tried to work in a bipartisan manner, and when that failed, they stopped trying that. Are you suggesting that politicians shouldn't even try that, and just push their agendas immediately when they have the chance?

Also, and again if I remember right, they were working on the ACA, which they felt was a significant attempt to fix some large problems with health care in this country.

This is a continuation of a conversation I've had before with the author about the Bush tax cuts, and so I see it as an attempt to claim that the D could have simply allowed them to expire on the rich, but not the middle. I suppose if they'd crafted something about that in the first two months of 2010 it might be possible. But I'm pretty sure they weren't even talking about it yet, and of course didn't anticipate getting wiped out in the mid-term elections, so they didn't know how small a window they had.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 4 months ago

What's the difference between "not a lot of time to craft and pass new legislation" and "lack of decisiveness?"

What's the difference between "trying to work in a bipartisan manner" and "lack of leadership?"

Wouldn't it be truthful to say that we elect people to be both able to work together in a bipartisan manner and to be decisiveness? Don't we elect people to be leaders when times demand leadership? If that's true, and the Democrats chose a strategy that failed, is it wrong to hold them accountable for that failure?

jafs 5 years, 4 months ago

I guess you missed the part about wanting them to act intelligently and responsibly, rather than just quickly.

Wow! Really? Obama gets it from all sides, doesn't he? When he tried to work with R, since about half the country voted for them, he gets criticized for "lack of leadership", and when he stopped, he's criticized for "ramming his agenda through" - the guy really can't win sometimes.

People elect people for a huge variety of different reasons, so I can't answer that one. But, when the opposition is strongly focused on opposing every initiative, I won't blame the president for his leadership.

You can hold them accountable, or blame them, for whatever you like, even if it's completely irrational from my perspective. The original discussion was about Obama and the Bush tax cuts - the author pointed out that he hadn't done what he would like to do when he had a couple of months to do so.

To him, that seems to mean that Obama, like Romney, doesn't actually want to raise taxes on the rich. I think that's incorrect, and that Obama does want to raise those. Romney's tax policies will decrease taxes on the rich, and Obama's will do the reverse.

It's a clear policy difference, for those that think there's no difference between the two major parties.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 4 months ago

Be clear, I hold them both responsible. The chances I would vote Obama or Romney, Democrat or Republican, are slim indeed. Many decades ago, I decided that having these two parties, and these two parties only (for all practical purposes) is not in the best interests of our country. Therefore, in order to promote third parties, I almost always vote for that and I encourage others to do likewise. I've made some rare exceptions, but not many.

George Lippencott 5 years, 4 months ago

I am going to give the resident lefties the benefit of the doubt and assume ignorance rather than duplicity

  1. The tax cut extension occurred at the end of 2010 when the Republicans had the votes to filibuster.
  2. The tax cut non-extension could have occurred at any time during the period when the Republicans lacked the votes to filibuster it (see above)
  3. Raising taxes does not require any reference to “Bush” Tax cuts" (which I have already pointed out were tax increases for the middle class). The Congress can do just about anything anytime it can muster the votes to do it
  4. The Republicans have been elected on a platform to not raise taxes so how can anyone blame them for not wanting to allow the current tax system to go back to a higher tax regime for their constituents

I believe the real problem was touched on above. Mr. Obama does not have the full support of his party to raise taxes on the rich. Too many Democratic office holders owe their office to donations from the rich elites.

That leads to the question on the floor about condemning and raising taxes on the rich (Buffet Tax or “Bush” tax). Why make it such an Issue when we do not have the Democratic votes. It apparently is really all about politics and stoking the stupid part of the Democratic Party base that does not understand how Washington works.

I wonder how many additional Democrats we need to elect to Congress to support an equitable tax on the rich (where they pay more as a percentage of their total incomes than people who make less than a tenth of what they do.

It would seem that all the lefties care about is increased government largess for their constituents so they can stay in power. Taxing the already overtaxed upper half of the middle class is just fine. The old “ham sandwich” has progressed to food stamps but the intent remains the same.

Exactly who has the moral high ground on this issue.

jafs 5 years, 4 months ago

I would respond, but your use of the term "resident lefties" and other such things deter me from doing so.

However, I would say that I believe the reason the Bush tax cuts are being discussed now is that they are set to expire at the end of this year, if Congress doesn't act on it. If I remember right, they were extended at the end of 2010 for another 2 years.

George Lippencott 5 years, 4 months ago

You are right. We need to address taxes.

But the argument about taxing the rich and blaming Republicans for not doing so begs the question that the Democratic leadership don't support that either.

I am well on record in advocating for a big tax increase on the truly rich.

I do believe that the more leftward elements of the Democratic Party do want to raise revenue with no concern as to who gets to pay. Those who argue for a 23% of GDP government tax rate clearly know that we can only achieve that by taxing the middle a great deal more. But they hide behind a "tax the rich" argument they do not believe

iF you believe in the 23% number you are IMHO in the leftie bunch otherwise you are with me that we don't whack the middle because we can not get the rich.

jafs 5 years, 4 months ago

Well, that's a little more civil.

Please point me towards the folks on here who advocated for "whacking" the middle class, whom you would characterize as "forum lefties".

It's long been established that those on the left would like to tax the rich at higher rates, while those on the right oppose that.

Carol Bowen 5 years, 4 months ago

I really do not like references to class warfare or taxing the wealthy. Why can't we talk about rearing taxes o previous levels which were successful in keeping the economy stable.

Carol Bowen 5 years, 4 months ago

Should read:

I really do not like references to class warfare or taxing the wealthy. Why can't we talk about returning taxes to previous levels which were successful in keeping the economy stable.

camper 5 years, 4 months ago

Here is what happened to the best of my knowledge....and research.

1) Since 2008, President Obama campaigned on and expressed his desire to let the Bush tax cuts for those earning more than $250k desire. He also included it in his 2009 budget proposal. 2) Nearly all (if not all) Republican senators vowed to filibuster in 2009 and again in December 2010. While there may have been only 39 or 40 Republican senators during much of this time period, it would have taken only 2 of the 57 Democratic senators to reach the filibuster requirement of 41 (3/5 ths clause).
3) In this regard, the Republicans had virtual filibuster power. And though there was a minority of Democrats who balked at Obama's plan, this does not represent a case of not holding his caucus at task considering the Republicans vow. 4) If anything these few dissenting indicate a more willingness to vote on there own view rather than in a partisan way.

George Lippencott 5 years, 4 months ago

Agree with analysis. Complaint is about the left side of the party that wants to move to 23% of GDP for federal expenditures and try to ignore that to do so requires a big tax increase on the middle. (or a recovery we have yet to see)

camper 5 years, 4 months ago

OK. Sorry bout the post below. You got me fired up a little bit ):

camper 5 years, 4 months ago

"I am going to give the resident lefties the benefit of the doubt and assume ignorance rather than duplicity"

You are displaying bad logic by using an ad hominem by using the term "resident lefties". You use this insulting term to broadly characterize. This is done so often and is the lowest common denominator form of argument. You insinuate that everything is mutually exclusive, and one cannot hold both liberal and conservative philosophy. It is much easier and dumber to just classify into either or sets.

You are better than this.

George Lippencott 5 years, 4 months ago

Maybe I am not better than that. I am tired of the distortion in the current political arguments. I hear Mr. Obama loud and clear about taxing the rich but I know as he knows his own party does not support that.

I can add and I find a lack of honesty on the part of at least part of the Democratic Party with regard to taxation and social justice policies. My problem is that they, like the Republicans, hold opinions from DC to daylight on all sorts of issues. Where is the mainstream and what do they really want to do. Actions speak louder than words. The increases in social programs in the first year of this presidency drive toward the 23% solution and major tax increases on the middle.

If I vote for Mr. Obama (as I would like to do because I am tired of old white men dictating what my country does) how can I be sure he will not act on the 23% argument made by at least some in his party. Unlike some members of his party I really do not want my lifestyle significantly restrained after a life time of hard work so that arbitrary goals in social expenditures can be met. I resent large numbers of citizens being exempt from contributing to the services we do enjoy. While I believe that our success is in part due to community contribution, I have already paid a lifetime in taxes for that contribution. I have no question that a good part of our success was of our own doing.

I realize that after a generation in the desert the Democrats get control and the economy goes to hell in a hand basket making it hard to achieve long held goals. That is not my fault. The middle has seen a disastrous reduction in their net worth making all sorts of expectancies and plans no longer possible. Like most impacted I hold a combination of government incompetence and human greed responsible for what happened. What I do not hear is recognition from the Democratic Party leadership as to that impact They throw money at the lower middle class and selective elements of the rest (teachers, professors and union workers) but talk give backs for the rest of the middle.

I want a pause in our great ambitions while all of those who work/worked have an opportunity to recover. It is not like the “poor” have been abandoned. Government statistics show that they are ahead in the game just like the top 5 to 10%. So I will use the term lefties to describe those in the Democratic Party that hold views that are detrimental to the future of the upper half of the middle class (23% of GDP, the Obama Care entitlement ($$$$) and other nice to add things we cannot at this time afford without hurting people we have already hurt.)

Boy do I feel better!!!

camper 5 years, 4 months ago

"Maybe I am not better than that. I am tired of the distortion in the current political arguments. I hear Mr. Obama loud and clear about taxing the rich but I know as he knows his own party does not support that."

It is mighty difficulty to get 57 out of 57 Democratic senators to agree with President Obama. I'd say he has 90-95% of his party to vote with him. This is our democratic system we work with. This is why some are proposing that the filibuster rule should be eliminated. It sure can gridlock things.

Glad you feel better. Good blog.

jafs 5 years, 4 months ago

Or at the very least make them actually filibuster, rather than just threatening to do so.

George Lippencott 5 years, 4 months ago

That is the way they (both partis) wrote the rules. If 41 indicate they will support a filibuter, the filibuster stands.

jafs 5 years, 4 months ago

Politics is a very frustrating and unsatisfying arena, in my experience, for many reasons.

Neither of the major parties, or minor ones, for that matter, accurately reflect my own values and ideas.

Politicians on both sides routinely "spin" - read "lie" - for political gain, many in politics are unduly influenced by money and corporate interests, and many get seduced by the desire for power. Neither side has clean hands in these regards.

So, we're faced with a choice between flawed imperfect people and parties - it's not satisfying, but that's the reality of it.

If politics didn't affect so many people in so many ways, I'd probably just ignore it.

jafs 5 years, 4 months ago

But, looking back over the last 40 years or so, it seems clear that the policies of the R party aren't good for the average person.

They are the policies that have resulted in the shrinking middle class and stagnant wages/net worth for that group.

They are the policies that resulted in a near meltdown of the financial system.

To blame Obama and the D because they didn't fix it quickly enough, and with significant R opposition seems funny to me. They're not perfect, of course, but they're better than the other choices, at least for me.

And, to say "I'm frustrated by the shrinking middle class and the loss of net worth in that group, and so I'll vote for the guys with the policies that created those" doesn't make sense to me either.

Nobody ever seems to want spending that benefits them to be cut, and virtually all government spending benefits somebody - that's why we have trouble cutting spending, in my view. Older folks don't want their SS/Medicare benefits cut, towns that have a lot of defense contracts don't want defense spending cut, etc.

Meanwhile, few people want their taxes raised. Young people don't want to pay into SS/Medicare if they think it won't be around for them, rich people don't want to pay more taxes, etc.

Given that the obvious common sense plan would be to both raise taxes and cut spending (long term fiscal solvency and sustainability), how will we ever do that?

jhawkinsf 5 years, 4 months ago

Painting with an awfully wide brush there, Mr. Jafs. If I laid every social ill at the feet of the Democrats, every conceivable negative tied to their policies, no matter how remote, you'd be accusing me of painting with that same wide brush. That's what you've done with the Republicans.

The problem is that human behavior, as in social policies, gets pretty complicated. So too is our financial system, especially when you factor in that we are living in a global marketplace with thousands of competing interests. Complicated too is that "middle class", all couple of hundred million of us. Older folks, who happen to be living decades longer than the systems that were designed to care for them. To say Dems. this and Repubs. that will miss the target far more often than hit.

jafs 5 years, 4 months ago

There may be some exceptions, but I think my broad characterization is correct.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 4 months ago

So every financial problem is laid at the feet of R's and every social ill is the fault of the D's. Broadly. Generally. Mostly. Kinda. Got it. :-)

jafs 5 years, 4 months ago

Cute, but that's not what I said, of course.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 4 months ago

But that's what I heard. Just kidding.

Maddy Griffin 5 years, 4 months ago

Obama wants to raise taxes on those making more than $250,000 annually. Romney says that's another kick in the gut for the middle class.How many "middle class" folks make upward of $250,000? I agree that govt. spending should be curbed, but cutting the safety net for the poor is not a good idea in this economy. Any country who spends more on defense than they spend on education or health care is in serious trouble. Why should the defense budget be nearly 1/2of the entire budget...unless we end up going to war in all those places McCain mentioned at the convention last night.

Trumbull 5 years, 4 months ago

."How many "middle class" folks make upward of $250,000?"

People like Joe the Plumber. I still remember that whole dishonest episode. Next thing the R's will make it look like a Wal Mart cashier makes 250k.

And the proposed increase (3% only on income > 250k) is very small to begin with. We are talking $3,000 more in taxes if you cleard 350k per year.

George Lippencott 5 years, 4 months ago

Are we missing the boat because of ignorance or duplicity? The issue I posted addressed raising taxes on the upper half of the middle class $69 to $120K. If you demand 23% of GDP for the government than you must raise taxes on those people. The mathematics are simple. We can not continue to spend $1 trillion a year more than we take in. Taxing the rich barely dents that. Taking from those who make $90K and giving it to those who make $25 K is what this is all about. Until the Democratic Party clarifies intent it would be stupid for those in the upper half of the middle class to vote for Mr. Obama.

JAFS, I would simply like to point out that over the last generation plus we have had two Democratic presidents and two Republican presidents. During the same period the Congress has been all of one party or all of the other or mostly split. I really do not know how anybody can blame one party entirely. It would seem to me that they are in it together or somebody was asleep at the switch. You are certainly entitled to your views but ….!

jafs 5 years, 4 months ago

Nobody has been "demanding" 23% of GDP for the government - you're the only one mentioning that figure.

I'd have to do a bit more research to get details, but in general I stand by my statement. R policies have led to the problems with the middle class, and contributed greatly to the increasing division into rich and poor in this country.

We had Reagan, Bush1, and Bush2 for most of that time, with a small diversion to Clinton (during which the economy thrived, as I recall).

Currently, we have a D president, and a very obstructionist R Congress.

Krugman wrote an interesting book called "End this Depression Now!" - in it, he discusses why, despite the evidence that policies of de-regulation weren't good for most people, it remained the policy for a long time. His answer is that it worked very well for those at the very top.

I recommend the book, not so much for his solutions, which I find not completely convincing, but for his very good descriptions of the problems, and the causes of them.

Alceste 5 years, 4 months ago

Over time, the United States has expected less and less of its elite, even as society has oriented itself in a way that is most likely to maximize their income. The top income-tax rate was 91 percent in 1960, 70 percent in 1980, 50 percent in 1986, and 39.6 percent in 2000, and is now 35 percent. Income from investments is taxed at a rate of 15 percent. The estate tax has been gutted.

High earners should pay considerably more in taxes than they do now. Top tax rates of even 50 percent for incomes in the seven-figure range would still be considerably lower than their level throughout the boom years of the post-war era, and should not be out of the question—nor should an estate-tax rate of similar size, for large estates. Etc.

But these are hard times. In hard times, Kansans blame the poor. shrug

jhawkinsf 5 years, 4 months ago

In the post war years, there was less ability to move huge sums of money to off shore tax havens. Now, with a simple click of a keyboard, billions can be moved to the Cayman Islands or wherever. Raise the tax rates here, and that's exactly what you will see. Of course, it already exists. Trillions of dollars are idling in post office boxes in Geneva and Lichtenstein. Whether you like it or not, there is a worldwide competition. I'd rather get 35% of billions than 50% of nothing.

Carol Bowen 5 years, 4 months ago

Well, I think I can blame the Republican party during this last go around. They did vow to obstruct all of president Obama's initiatives the day he was elected. I fault the GOP for catering to their radical fringe.

Carol Bowen 5 years, 4 months ago

The rhetoric we are hearing gives us very little information. My main concern, given that one or the other will win the election, is that 100% obstruction is planned by the radical conservatives. They will win seats in the House and may gain a couple in the Senate. The president has very little influence. Congress could make more trouble than they are doing now.

Our current congress is holding the Post Office hostage because of the 75 year pay ahead into the pension plan. Even a 50 year pay ahead is silly. I'll bet congress has staged a cash flow for its own desires. The budget should be in place by October 1, the beginning of the fiscal year.

Congress is also sitting on the USDA's budget for disaster relief. Go figure. They are hng up on food stamps.

P.S. Moderate, I agree. The convention was mostly white men just as it was last time.

Carol Bowen 5 years, 4 months ago

Oh, I forgot the really big show - raising the debt ceiling. That should happen befor October 1, too.

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