For a very long time now, the majority of Americans have supported raising taxes on the very wealthiest people and entities in our country. For a very long time now, the Republican Party has gone against the majority of Americans’ wishes by stifling any and all legislation that might try to accommodate the wishes of the American people. The main ways in which they have done this are by arguing that a) the wealthiest among us create the jobs and raising their taxes would not support a “rising tide lifts all boats” ideology; and b) the Democratic Party wants to raise everybody’s taxes. Both of these arguments have been proven wrong.
The Republican Party, having spent many years controlling our country into an economic and public health crisis, finds itself now playing defense against meaningful infrastructure legislation that would require a little taxation of the wealthy. Arguing that Dr. Seuss is being canceled by Marxist Black Panther Party Maoists isn’t a good policy argument against having a robust infrastructure bill that promises to address hundreds of millions of Americans’ needs. That means the GOP needs to create a rhetoric that somehow accuses the Biden administration of wanting to tax Americans—not simply the rich. It isn’t working as well as it has in the past, and part of that is that the current administration seems not to be falling into the same traps of previous ones in allowing bogus rhetorical conservative narratives about taxes and fairness to take up its time.
The new conservative angle is that electric cars should be taxed. While the Biden administration proposes creating more tax incentives for electric vehicles, the GOP, dripping in fossil fuel patronization, wants to create another tax that works against promoting more renewable energy. Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, who recently surprised many with his announcement to retire at the end of his term, has offered up a tax on electric vehicles. Along with a make-em-up concern for the need to come up with revenue that will pay for this infrastructure plan, the conservative talking point is that gas-powered vehicle owners pay a tax for infrastructure when they go to the pumps, so why shouldn’t electric vehicle owners? It’s an argument that has common sense feelings attached to it, but like most conservative common-sense arguments, it only works inside of a vacuum and fails miserably when contextualized in the real world.
On Monday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki spoke with reporters about the many wide-ranging issues fielded by a working U.S. government and a communicative administration—things like foreign policy, national security, and infrastructure. At two points, Psaki was forced to field the disingenuous conservative infrastructure paper-tiger rhetoric from reporters, and both times she fired back that there are very simple things we all understand, and everyone should understand. Electric vehicles are being promoted because they are considerably more essential to our environmental future than are fossil-fuel driven vehicles, and we aren’t taking in American consumers just so that the rich can continue to figure out ways to not pay their fair share of taxes.
The first question was about Sen. Rob Portman, offering up an olive branch made out of air by saying he would be open to creating an infrastructure bill that wouldn’t include his ideas on an electric vehicle tax as long as there were no taxes in the infrastructure bill at all. This isn’t something worth mentioning to Biden or Psaki—or anyone with working thought processes—since the Republican Party’s faux budget-neutral whining (one of the reasons Portman says we need to tax electric vehicles) contradicts the premise of creating a spending bill with no new taxes. And if Portman is unwilling to give even the dimmest of outlines of what that kind of an infrastructure package would look like, it’s not up to Psaki, or anyone else for that matter, to help him figure it out. He can take that nothing-burger of an idea into retirement.
In fact, Psaki explains that Biden has already offered up considerably more revenue generation ideas that are a part of the program. “The last I checked, the proposal the president put forward in his initial—the initial proposal that has been a part of this discussion—to increase investment in tax enforcement, ensure that people who are the wealthiest are paying what they should be paying in taxes, which would raise a significantly larger amount than the gas tax, does exactly that. And should meet [Portman’s] bar.”
Later on some reporter guy comes forward with a straight question, wondering why electric vehicle owners don’t have to pay a gas tax like gas car owners. This. Is. Not. An argument. For. Not. Taxing. The. Rich. This isn’t an argument for taxing electric vehicle owners. This is the same argument that the Confederacy gave to the government over why they couldn’t continue to treat an entire race of people like chattel. This isn’t fair because it’s how we do stuff that isn’t acceptable anymore. If this reporter, who I will call Newsman GOP Talking Points, is really feeling bent out of shape about some Americans being unfairly taxed versus other Americans, I would hope he would go lead the charge to get the wealthiest in our country to at least pay as much in taxes as the rest of us, as opposed to even less than the rest of us.
Portman and others’ attempts at coming up with ways to not tax the rich while pretending to work on a “bipartisan” piece of infrastructure legislation would be the noble swan song of a conservative senator moving into retirement if it wasn’t so paper-thin in its worthlessness. Sen. Chuck Schumer has already moved into starting the reconciliation process as the GOP has made it clear for about 45 years now that they do not plan on passing any legislation that doesn’t include only giving tax breaks to the rich and nothing else. Psaki offers up Newsman GOP Talking Point his deliverance by explaining that in promoting electric vehicle ownership, the Biden administration hopes to … get more people to choose to drive electric vehicles. This, of course, will help by reducing our country’s carbon emissions while promoting the renewable industries in the United States, which have considerably more potential for growth and job creation than the fossil fuel industry does. It’s as simple as that.
If you thought I was being too hard on Newsman GOP Talking Points guy, his follow-up should put your conscience to rest: He asks, with the logic of someone suffering anxiety from lack of logic, what will happen to the Highway Trust fund if people stop buying gas and move to electric the way the Biden administration is proposing to incentivize inside of the infrastructure bill. Another way to put this: Our highways have been falling apart for a long time now, in no small part due to the lack of tax revenue generated from the wealthiest among us, and the gas tax has not been able to fix that. What will happen to our highways and infrastructure if we pass a massive bill to help fund, rebuild, and upgrade the thing that the gas tax is supposed to help fund? He adds “over time,” so as to not sound like he doesn’t understand words and numbers and things, but the result is the same.
Many Republican senators and legislators, not unlike many Democratic ones, are pretty wealthy themselves, and would prefer to keep their ill-gotten tax break gains. The Biden administration, along with progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders, know that the Republican tax breaks are outrageous and, at the very least, any movement to claw back some of that money on top of money the ultra rich are making is good policy. It’s popular policy, even inside of conservative circles. They also know that we need an infrastructure bill for all of the reasons: Our country needs infrastructure upgrades for economic, climate, and national security reasons that everyone can see and understand.
Historically speaking, huge Republican-led tax breaks for the ultra rich have led to further weakening of our country’s infrastructure and the widening of the economic inequality gap between the rich and the rest of us. The Democratic Party has proposed raising taxes to varying degrees against the richest people in our country. Even with the egregiously low tax rates that the ultra rich have been gifted by their millionaire GOP class of lackeys, the rich can’t even be bothered to pay them. In a form of compromise, the Biden administration has already offered up considerably more moderate proposals on taxing the rich—at least considerably more moderate than many of us in the progressive community would like. And while we may complain it doesn’t go far enough, the Republican Party has made it clear now for decades that there is no compromise to be made.
This is Psaki trying not to say that this isn’t a question worth answering.
Here is Psaki answering another question about something Portman said. There might be no things in the history of things ever said by Rob Portman that are worth a response. Luckily, Psaki is willing to do a job that would end with me being fired for cursing too much.