By Ben Cohen: Predictably, the Republicans in the Senate blocked the Democrat's 'Buffet Rule' bill that would tax millionaires at at least 30% of their income. It was predictable because of the Republicans pathological need to sabotage any measures that would help the economy - a worrying trait that is fast making their party completely unelectable.
In the short term, the Republicans have gotten what they wanted. They have blocked a bill supported heavily by the President and assured the wealthy that they have their interests at heart. The problem is, attitudes towards the wealthy are changing in America, and kick backs to the rich from the political classes are becoming increasingly less acceptable. President Obama is making this a feature of his campaign as witnessed by the early shots he has fired at Romney. Obama is highlighting his opponents extreme wealth and inability to understand the needs of regular Americans, so every move the Republicans make to stop wealth distribution is another round of ammunition for the President.
The proposed 30% tax on millionaires won't raise a huge amount of revenue - calculations run at about $47 billion over 10 years, a drop in the ocean relative to what is needed to make a dent in the ever deepening deficit. The Democrats clearly knew this when crafting the bill, but chose to propose it anyway knowing the Republicans would oppose it. They did, and now the Democrats will use it to their advantage.
This really is another example of the GOP cutting off its nose to spite its face. They rejected the bill because they have dogmatically and religiously opposed any tax hike proposed by the President. The tactic has been used to paint Obama as a radical socialist, and it has gone on for years. The Republicans even went as far as to prevent Obama from raising the debt ceiling - a borderline treasonous move that could have destroyed the US economy in a matter of weeks. This behavior has simply gone on for too long, and the public is catching on to their incessant wolf crying and name calling.
The Obama and the Democrats will use the rejection to highlight the increasing extremes the Republicans will go to in order to preserve wealth for the rich, and it will most certainly pay dividends, particularly in election year.
There appears to be a trend happening, and a positive one from the Democrat's perspective. The Republican Party is now so fractured and dysfunctional that they are incapable of following a coherent strategy. They fight battles by kicking and screaming, winning occasionally in the short term, but losing credibility when it comes to the bigger picture. Obama's election strategists used the Clinton's short term thinking to out maneuver them over the long run in 2008, and they will no doubt use a similar strategy to nullify whatever the Republicans come up with for Romney. Obama's strategy based politics appears to be seeping into the Democratic culture, and it is a positive trend. Republicans can only think in the short term because the nature of their party doesn't allow them to plan for the future. There are too many competing interest groups with contradictory objectives, so they must fight battle by battle rather than plan for the long war.
Policy gimmicks like the 'Buffet Rule' allow Democrats to set the agenda for the 2012 election. The choose the topic and make the Republicans fight them on their ground. Regardless of whether the legislation passes, the Democrats win in the long terms because they are making the Republicans look so bad. It's a simple strategy, and quite an effective one.