Given the time of year, and the larger circumstances, some rhetorical excesses are probably inevitable, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) speech on the floor this afternoon was a little over the top, even for him.
For those who can’t watch clips online, the Republican leader argued, “[F]or Democrats, apparently, every dollar in federal spending is sacred. Once secured, it can’t be cut. That’s why we’ve got trillion-dollar deficits. And the truth is, until the president gets specific about cuts, nobody should trust Democrats to put a dime in new revenue toward real deficit reduction – or to stop their shakedown of the taxpayers at the top two percent.”
OK, let’s unwrap this a bit, because I think it’s important to appreciate how silly this rhetoric really is.
First, Democrats have already accepted $1 trillion in spending cuts, and have offered hundreds of billions of dollars in additional cuts. “Every dollar in federal spending is sacred”? McConnell – or whoever writes the speeches he reads – isn’t paying close enough attention to current events.
Second, we know exactly why we have trillion-dollar deficits, and I’ll give you a hint: it’s not because Democrats spend too much.
But what really stood out for me here is the notion of a “shakedown.” Can the political world pause to get a grip for a minute?
President Obama is talking about an increase in the top marginal rate from 35% to 39.6%. That’s it – a 4.6% increase, returning the wealthiest folks to a top rate they paid during the Clinton era, and still giving them a tax break on their first quarter-million in income.
This is what McConnell considers so outrageous. This is the fight Republicans consider paramount. This is the line in the sand for the right that must not be crossed. This is the difference between capitalism and socialism, a free market and a job-crushing dystopia. A 35% top rate is great; a 39.6% top rate is a confiscatory “shakedown.”