You know what the Republicans’ biggest problem is? They don’t know when they’ve won.
Take taxes. Take the budget. Take the deficit. Take the “fiscal cliff.” (Don’t take the plunge.)
For years (well, OK, ever since George W. Bush left office, leaving a gaping hole in the budget and a giant deficit), Republicans have argued that the government has to stop spending so much -- but that tax increases to fill the budget hole are verboten.
And now Democrats have mostly bought in to that argument. From President Obama on down, they say they’re prepared to rein in spending, including on entitlement programs. In return, all they want is to raise the tax rate a bit on well-to-do Americans, while keeping taxes the same on the middle class.
To be fair, some Republicans are edging toward that same position, Grover Norquist be damned. As my colleague Morgan Little reported Wednesday:
Most recently, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said in a private meeting with the House Republican whip team Tuesday morning that Republicans should take the opportunity to extend President George W. Bush’s tax cuts for 98% of Americans, calling it an “early Christmas present” for taxpayers.
But Cole isn’t getting much love from fellow Republicans:
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) responded to Cole on Wednesday, saying that though Cole is a friend and supporter, he disagrees entirely with his stance. “The goal here is to grow the economy and control spending. You’re not going to grow the economy if you raise tax rates on the top two rates,” Boehner said.
In other words, the argument made by Mitt Romney -- the same argument voters rejected Nov. 6 -- remains the argument of the Republican Party leadership.
C’mon, fellows, get a clue: You’re the reason we’re even having this discussion about spending and taxes. You don’t think Democrats would prefer to go back to the hefty tax rates on the rich of the Eisenhower years? Or heck, even of the Clinton years?
Instead, they’re ready to cut the safety net -- to go against their own constituents, in many cases -- to avoid that darn fiscal cliff.
And instead of taking the deal and running all the way to the bank, the GOP is saying, in effect, “We want the whole loaf, not half.”
No, you can’t tax your way out of this mess. And Democrats aren’t trying to.
But you can’t also cut your way out of this mess. You have to increase tax revenue.
Sure, you can talk about overhauling the tax code. But that takes time. The fiscal cliff is coming up on Jan. 1. The time for tax reform will be after the new Congress convenes.
For now, Republicans, face reality: You lost the election, but you’ve won the debate. You’ve got everyone talking spending cuts and fiscal responsibility. If not the whole loaf, you’ve got three quarters of it.
Why isn’t that enough?