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Banzai Boozman

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"Classicide" is not a word, yet, but we'll need something like it ("economic cleansing"?) if Republicans win their war on the middle class. You can't expect mercy from a party of John Boozmans.

A one-percent warrior with blood in his eye, Boozman is so opposed to any aid for average Americans that he not only voted against President Obama's plan to extend a tax cut for them, he voted against a Republican alternative too. Now understand that Arkansas's junior senator is devoutly partisan. When he doesn't do what Mitch McConnell says, it's for sure he's in a frenzy. He'll be attacking middle-class people on the street before long.

Obama wants to help 160 million people by continuing and expanding his 2 percent reduction in the payroll tax that went into effect this year. A typical family's taxes will go up more than $1,000 next year if the payroll tax reduction is not continued. (The White House has helpfully provided an online calculator so you can determine your own savings.) "Put money back in the pockets of working Americans," the president says. Impervious to the Christmas spirit, the Senate last week rejected the Obama proposal. Are there not workhouses?

To replace the tax revenue lost by continuing the reduction in the payroll tax, Obama would impose a small additional tax on income of more than $1 million. Protecting millionaires is what Republican senators do. But the leadership fears political retribution if the payroll tax reduction is not extended, so they proposed to continue the reduction and replace the lost tax revenue by firing 10 percent of all federal employees and freezing the pay of the rest. Federal employees are middle-class. The strategy fits.

That plan was rejected by the Senate too. As we said, Boozman voted against both. He seems to have drawn a line in the sand. Nothing that would benefit the middle class gets past him.

Part of the reason the Senate defeated Obama's plan — part of the reason the Senate can't get much of anything done these days — is that the body doesn't operate under the principle of majority rule anymore. Until recent years, most legislation required only a simple majority for approval. The Republicans now insist on virtually universal application of a Senate rule that allows them to require an extraordinary majority of 60 votes by threatening a filibuster. This is the same rule — not a constitutional provision — that allowed Southern Democrats and conservative Republicans to block civil rights legislation for years. But it was little used otherwise, and most work got done. Now, extremists like Boozman are at the wheel, and middle-class, middle-of-the-road Americans are at risk.

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