We should thank members of the tea party caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives for clarifying things.
Their rebellion Thursday evening against their own leadership’s proposal to back the nation off the fiscal cliff shows that they have no interest in playing a constructive role in resolving a fiscal crisis.
Instead, they made clear that the country can go ahead with forced across-the-board tax increases and budget cuts, which economists predict will start a new recession, before they would be willing to raise the tax rates of millionaires and billionaires.
The bill they rejected, Speaker John Boehner’s “Plan B”, was not a realistic alternative. It would have been dead on arrival in the Senate and subject to a presidential veto if it got that far.
But the reason it was rejected shows that there would never be a balanced approach to deficit reduction that would satisfy these extremists in the Republican conference.
“Plan B” would have extended the Bush tax cuts to all income below $1 million a year.
That would mean 99 percent of taxpayers would not see an increase in their income tax rate. Those who would pay a higher rate would still enjoy the tax cuts on their first million in reported annual income. The higher rate would not kick in until the $1 million and first dollar.
That increase was a deal killer for the hard right wing of the party and shows why they should not be included in any future negotiations.
Instead of trying to reach a deal that will get the support of congressmen like Iowa’s Rep. Steve King, and Florida’s Alan West, the speaker should be forging a deal that will get the support of members like Maine’s Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud.
The final deal is going to need sufficient support from Democrats and Republican realists to reach the magic number of 219 votes.
To get there, it should have key elements of the president’s first offer, which raised taxes slightly for income in excess of $250,000, but preserved tax breaks for the middle class. This is fair. Times have been good for people at the top end of the income scale, while people in the middle have experienced decades of wage stagnation.
It’s also good economics. It’s time for Congress to act to prevent a crisis, whether the tea party Republicans are on board or not.