Vice President Joe Biden said Monday that fiscal conservatives “acted like terrorists” during the debt-ceiling debate. Those like the veep who fervently protest the lack of civility in American politics are the quickest to lower the bar.
Mr. Biden’s slur was in agreement with a statement from Rep. Mike Doyle, Pennsylvania Democrat, that “We have negotiated with terrorists. This small group of terrorists have made it impossible to spend any money.” Comparing conservatives to violent extremists was a low moment even for a politician famous for verbal gaffes. This ranks somewhere below Mr. Biden saying President Franklin Roosevelt went on television when the stock market crashed in 1929 (when he was not yet president and TV was still experimental), calling “jobs” a three-letter word, and saying you can’t go to a 7-11 “unless you have a slight Indian accent.” Mr. Doyle later backpedaled, sort of, saying he should have said “hostage-taker,” which isn’t much of an improvement.
A little Democratic frustration is understandable. The White House and congressional liberals set out to exploit the temporary debt-ceiling predicament to push through permanent tax increases. That was in the spirit of former Obama adviser Rahm Emanuel’s dictum that no crisis should go to waste. They attempted to link tax hikes to promised future spending cuts, but this has always been a bad bargain. History has shown that while new taxes appear immediately, promised cuts never materialize. This was a lesson Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush learned the hard way.
President Obama gambled his political reputation on a last-minute address to the nation to push for new taxes. He believed he would be able to rouse the American people to pressure legislators to enact a “revenue component,” which was more a testament to Barack’s belief in the power of his oratory than a realistic assessment of the current political mood. His dramatic, high-stakes gamble dropped like a lead balloon, which should cause Mr. Obama’s supporters some alarm going into an election year. The O’s magic is gone.
While liberals kept permanent spending solutions like the Balanced Budget Amendment at bay and ensured the most immediate budget cuts were illusory, they lost - for now - on taxes. Part of the contest came down to whether liberals believed fiscal conservatives would refuse to compromise on taxes even if it meant causing an economic meltdown. Because Democrats believe their own hype about the “irrational” Tea Party, they blinked and their hoped-for impositions on “the rich” were rebuffed.
The tax issue isn’t settled. Republicans only beat back the most imminent schemes to loot more money from Americans, but a newly created joint committee could implement tax hikes. New revenue proposals will be on the table as soon as Congress returns from its recess. Until politicians get serious about cutting government spending, major tax increases remain a clear and present danger.