Howard Barbanel: None So Blind as Those Who Will Not See: GOP in Denial Over Legislative Victory in Fiscal Cliff

Some Republicans don’t know a victory when they see one. All you hear out of presidential hopeful Marco Rubio and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is doom and gloom but this is a case of not seeing the forest for the trees.

Tuesday the House passed the Senate’s bill avoiding the so-called fiscal cliff — the first time the house had a vote on New Year’s Day since the Korean War. We know that the Senate passed this on an overwhelmingly bi-partisan basis with only eight “no” votes but in the House the vote was much more fractious at 257-151 with only 85 Republicans joining 172 Democrats.

What the 151 GOP “no” voters don’t want to see is that they essentially scored a major victory for themselves and the American people, but blind ideology, churlish demagoguery and primary-election posturing has kept these Members of Congress from realizing it.

In a Washington world where the White House and the Senate are firmly in Democratic hands, the Democrats actually contorted themselves to please the Republicans by making the Bush-era tax rates permanent for nearly all Americans. The Democrats and the President changed their definition of “the rich” from $ 250,000 a year to $ 450,000 a year for families. And these families won’t pay the higher marginal tax rate of 39.6 percent on income below $ 450,000, only above it and income after exemptions and deductions. In a place like New York $ 200,000 isn’t rich but I think it’s safe to say that those earning a half million anywhere in the nation have graduated out of the middle class.

The Democrats caved mightily on inheritance taxes. Estates of $ 5 million or below will be excluded from taxation. This is an increase of the exemption ceiling from the current $ 3.5 million. Family farms and certain family businesses get a $ 10 million exemption. Yes, above the $ 5 million threshold the tax rate rises to 40 percent from 35 — but $ 1.5 million more is now exempt, or $ 525,000 in taxes that will no longer have to be paid on that $ 1.5 million. If you inherited $ 5.5 million your estate taxes will be $ 200,000 instead of $ 700,000 at the old rate. How is this a bad thing for Republican philosophy? Democrats should be upset!

Also the bill permanently, automatically increases the Alternative Minimum Tax bar which removes the annual taxation Sword of Damocles from tens of millions of upper middle class Americans. How is this a Democratic victory? Lastly, dividend income will no longer be taxed at the same marginal tax rates as earned income, it will be taxed at a flat 20 percent (more like capital gains). Is this not a victory for Wall Street and corporate America?

But if you listen to all the braying and whining particularly from Tea-Party affiliated Republicans in the House you’d think the world has come to an end and the GOP has surrendered whole cloth to President Obama.

What really happened is that finally at the eleventh hour senators acted senatorial and most representatives in the House came to their senses on behalf of the American people and our economy.

The GOP has got to find some things to offer the American people beyond draconian plans to cut the life out of everything. Let’s see some ideas to bring prosperity and the good life to the Average Jane or Joe. What about Republicans advocating for three weeks paid vacation for everyone in the interests of increasing worker satisfaction and productivity?

Speaker John Boehner and Rep. Paul Ryan deserve a lot of credit for bringing the Senate bill to a vote in the House and for voting in favor of the legislation themselves. We need folks in Congress who are going to get things done not pretend to be Moe from The Three Stooges. Let’s see what the new Congress can do, hopefully the fiscal cliff vote can set a positive momentum in motion for Congress and the country.

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