What we’ve got is war — a war between the taxpayers and the tax-eaters. The tax-eaters can’t understand why the taxpayers won’t shovel out the swag, salute as usual, and shut up. This time the taxpayers are fed up and they’re not going to take it any more.
President Obama, the swag man for the tax-eaters, can’t understand why the Republicans won’t join his crusade to add trillions of dollars — that’s trillions with a “t,” not even billions with a “b” — to the burden of the taxpayers.
Mr. Obama has never met a tax he didn’t want to kiss and cuddle, and can’t give up his itch to cuddle these new trillions. He pouts that it’s the Republicans, not him, who hold the “my way or the highway” attitude. He won’t sign “a 30-day, or a 60-day or 90-day extension” of the debt limit, even to keep the economy from a crash.
Adding trillions of dollars in new taxes, an Associated Press analysis reveals, will fall hardest on small-business owners and low- and middle-income families trying to reach for more prosperity. The president does not speak of this, focusing instead on the very few of the very rich.
In his frantic push for more taxes — his latest attempt to apply his medicine to an economy with an unemployment rate of 9.2 percent and rising - the president channels Marie Antoinette. He berates “tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, oil companies, hedge-fund managers and corporate jet owners.” Like Mzz Antoinette puzzling over why poor Frenchmen hungry for bread couldn’t eat cake, the president can’t understand why a baron of Wall Street would settle for a little Grumman or Falcon, even with a tax credit. The president has a Boeing 747, equipped with all the gadgets Silicon Valley can dream up, standing ready to take him and Michelle to Gotham to shed tears for the poor over a $400 dinner.
He won’t talk about “taxes.” He speaks fluent euphemy. “What we need to do is to have a balanced approach where everything is on the table.” Hear this: “We need to take on spending in the tax code.” Or try this: “You can’t reduce the deficit to the levels that it needs to be reduced without having some revenue in the mix.” Who said anything about raising taxes? Who doesn’t like “balance” and “revenue”?
Mr. Obama, with his trillion-dollar “grand bargain,” is flailing about in frustration because the Republicans refuse to speak euphemy, the preferred tongue of Capitol Hill, and doggedly talk in the Harry Truman English the Tea Party irregulars employ to call a tax by its right name. (This has the added benefit of being kind to the language.) Mr. Obama came to Washington as the master of pulpit rhetoric and he’s choking on mixed metaphors: “Pull off the Band-Aid. Eat our peas. Now’s the time to do it.” But who wants icky peas that have spent several days under someone’s Band-Aid? Not even Maxim’s of Paris could make a tasty dish of “Petits Pois sous Band-Aid.”
Euphemism, however vague, cute or inexact, won’t work this time if the Republicans can resist the urge, preserved deep within their DNA, to fold in the clutch. Taxes are an affliction that everyone understands; a CBS News poll finds that more than 60 percent of all Americans think Congress should not raise the debt ceiling. This obviously doesn’t mean the 60 percent think we should become deadbeats, like certain Europeans. The 60 percent understands that the prospect of default is all that can persuade Democrats drunk on spending that ruinous, reckless and irresponsible profligacy is an addiction with limits.
Maggie Thatcher years ago diagnosed the terminal ailment of socialists. “They always run out of other people’s money.” Sarah Palin, who sets liberal teeth on edge with her gift of cutting colorfully to the chase, observes that “the Sugar Daddy has run out of money.” We haven’t run out of money, not quite yet, but we take the ladies’ point.
The Democrats cry that the Republicans must agree to these tax increases or risk default because Democrats are incapable of making the cuts in spending to prevent default. Naturally, the Republicans could understand this if they weren’t so pathologically dumb and willfully unable to learn from their betters. David Brooks of the New York Times, the most eloquent media voice for this view, says Republicans no longer have a “sense of moral decency” and can’t accept the “legitimacy” of “intellectual authorities.” What he means is that the taxpayers have finally got the tax-eaters’ number, and the “intellectual authorities” might as well get used to it.
• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.