One Way the GOP Can “Stop Being the Stupid Party”

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore

If there is still a rule of social decorum that requires one to pause for a seemly period after a man’s death before courting his widow, Bobby Jindal just broke it.

In statements he made this week, Jindal, the Republican governor of Louisiana and current chair of the Republican Governors Association, repudiated Mitt Romney and made a bid to lead a new Republican party.

Romney, as everyone now knows, said in a conference call with his big donors that Obama won the election by giving “gifts” to “especially the African-American community, the Hispanic community and young people.”

Jindal pounced.

“I absolutely reject that notion,” he said. “We have got to stop dividing the American voters … We need to continue to show how our policies can help every voter out there achieve the American Dream.”

Earlier in the week, Jindal said that Republicans have to “stop being the stupid party.”

“We’ve got to make sure that we are not the party of big business, big banks, big Wall Street bailouts, big corporate loopholes, big anything. We cannot be, we must not be, the party that simply protects the rich so they get to keep their toys.”

The Republican Party has a chance right now to start moving in the direction Jindal wants. Obama met with Republican and Democratic leaders at the White House Friday to begin negotiating a deficit reduction package that Congress must pass by the end of the year to avoid the “fiscal cliff.”

Obama wants to keep tax rates the same for 98 percent of Americans and increase the top marginal tax rate for the highest earners from 35 percent to 39.6 percent, where it was during the Clinton years.

If the Republicans want to start to shed the image of the rich man’s party, they should make sure the Obama tax hike passes.

A few days after the election, Republican pollster Frank Luntz appeared on Fox News and shared the results of a survey that asked voters what groups the Republicans were most interested in helping. The answers looked like this:

REPUBLICANS MOST INTERESTED IN HELPING

—The Wealthy 50 percent

—Big Business 48 percent

—Hardworking Taxpayers 26 percent

—The Middle Class 23 percent

—Small Business 18 percent

—Special Interests 17 percent

—Families 16 percent

—The Poor 3 percent

Republicans will reinforce this image in an unforgettable way if they cling to a historically low tax rate for the rich when the deficit has never been higher and the rich have never been richer.

Bill Kristol, conservative commentator and editor of the Weekly Standard, put it this way: “Really? The Republican Party is going to fall on its sword to defend a bunch of millionaires, half of whom voted Democratic and half of whom live in Hollywood and are hostile to Republican principles?”

We will hear Republican hardliners stick to the argument that a tax hike on the rich will hurt everyone. But it’s easier to find evidence against that view than for it.

In 1993, the last time Congress voted for a personal income tax rate hike, Republicans called the bill “job-killing poison,” and no Republican voted for it. Following the tax hike — which affected only top earners — the country experienced the longest economic expansion in history with more than 22 million new jobs, higher incomes at all levels, the lowest unemployment rate in 40 years, the lowest poverty rate in 20 years and a steep drop in child poverty.

In September of this year, the Congressional Research Service published an economic analysis of the top tax rates since World War II, which includes the 91 percent top marginal tax rate in place in the 1940s and 1950s. The report found no clear correlation between reducing top tax rates and increased saving, investment or productivity growth.

In his farewell address in January of 1960, President Eisenhower (who once called tax cuts “fiscal recklessness … that would lead to a vast wasteland of debt and financial chaos”) warned the country against the “recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties.”

The Republican Party came to see tax cuts as that miraculous solution. Today, however, it seems that a few Republicans may be willing to go along with the opinion that tax cuts can be good in some cases, and not so good in others. We’ll find out soon.

That would not be a small thing. It could be a big thing. It could be, perhaps, the beginning of a shift from ideology back to pragmatism.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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