Update: See also clammyc's diary on this from earlier today. Good detailed stuff from clammy as always.
They say political people are divided into two camps: the hacks and the wonks. It is even said that in Washington, this divide is stronger than that between left and right: that hacks of opposing parties often get along better than with the wonks of their own party, and vice versa.
Me, I'm a hack. I conduct focus groups for a living, and I relish the dramatic battles of persuasion that are American elections. Unfortunately for my kind (but fortunately for the country!), policy battles and analysis of them tend to be dominated by wonks. Which is as it should be, especially as we stare into the abyss of possible economic disaster and try to pull ourselves out with a major stimulus package.
But the hack in me cannot resist stressing what has gone almost unnoticed in all the stimulus talk: The GOP just voted against the biggest middle class tax cuts in history. To a hack like me already relishing the 2010 elections, today was like Christmas and my birthday all rolled into one. Multiplied times ten.
The compromise plan announced last night includes $282 billion in tax cuts over two years. With that in mind, Steven Waldman argues, persuasively, that when the vast majority of congressional Republicans oppose the package, they'll be voting against the biggest tax cut "in history."
Get that? Every single member of the House GOP, and all but three members of the Senate GOP, voted not only against Obama's jobs creation program, but against the biggest tax cut in history. We already knew that 2010 would be a battle royale: Democrats would stress all the wonderful programs Republicans voted against, while Republicans would find the most objectionable pieces of spending promoted by Democrats and stoke as much outrage as possible over them. This kabuki theater is guaranteed to provide fodder for over-the-top political advertising; it's also guaranteed to make any efforts at bipartisan good feeling in Washington deteriorate even faster than we've already seen it do given GOP intransigence to date.
But this? The GOP voting against the biggest tax relief package in American history? Are you kidding me? This is manna from heaven. It's like taking fire out from under the eyes of a watchful Zeus. It completely changes the electoral equation for House and Senate races in 2010.
But it's not just that: they voted against the biggest MIDDLE-CLASS tax cut in American history, after voting FOR Bush's gigantic tax cuts for the rich. The ads just write themselves:
Under George Bush, Congressman X voted to give huge tax breaks to the super rich and to corporations that cut jobs. In 2009, the same Congressman voted against Obama's Jobs Creation program, and against the biggest MIDDLE-CLASS tax cuts in history--the same tax cuts for 95% of Americans Obama promised the American People. You need a representative in Congress who is on YOUR side for a change.
Hell, a blithering idiot could write the ads and still come up with better material than anything the GOP has to put out. Benen's whole post really nails it, and the final few grafs take the cake:
What's more, let's also not forget that Obama's tax-cut plan in the recovery package is not only arguably bigger than previous cuts, but also better targeted. George W. Bush's tax cuts were long-term income-tax rate cuts, which amounted to a generous break for those at the top, since the wealthy pay most income taxes. Obama's tax cuts, meanwhile, are short-term refunds paid directly to working and middle class families (some of which Republicans have denounced as "welfare").
As such, GOP lawmakers are going to reject one of the largest, if not the largest, tax cut ever proposed by a president -- which just so happens to be targeted at the working and middle class families Obama vowed to look out for.
When the economy recovers, I suspect many on the right will argue, "Obama's policy only worked because he passed a quarter-trillion dollars in tax breaks." That will surely make them feel better. But how will those same conservatives respond when it's noted that Republicans stood up to oppose one of the biggest tax-cut plans in American history?
No kidding. And we haven't even had a vote on healthcare yet.
These GOP assholes have no idea what's in store for them come November 2010. But I do. Frankly, the hack in me can't wait to get started.