In the ongoing fight over taxes, Republican lawmakers are not in a comfortable position. The public supports President Obama's plan; the GOP does not. The public wants Republicans to compromise; the GOP doesn't care. The public wants the wealthiest Americans to pay more; the GOP has made the opposite goal its top priority.
Republicans generally defend their position by saying they're looking out for "small businesses," but only about 2 percent of small businesses would see a small increase in the top marginal rate. So, as Scott Keyes noted, Sen. Mike Lee (R) of Utah rolled out a new defense yesterday.
Cloaking his predilection for the rich as concern for the less fortunate, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) argued Wednesday that raising taxes on the wealthy would primarily hurt the poor. Lee's comments came on former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's (R) radio show as the two discussed the looming fiscal showdown in Congress.
"The reason we worry about raising taxes on anyone -- even raising taxes on the rich," Lee argued, is "that will hit the poorest among us the hardest." Lest listeners get the wrong idea, the Utah Senator insisted, "it's not that we're looking out for the rich."
In case there's any confusion, let's reemphasize that under the Democratic plan, all income below $250,000 would be taxed at a lower rate, and all income above $250,000 would pay a slightly higher rate. Giving "the poorest among us" a tax cut and hitting them "the hardest" are not the same thing.
So what is Lee talking about? It's a perfect crystallization of supply-side economic theory -- the far-right senator believes asking the wealthy to pay Clinton-era rates on income above $250,000 would invariably "hit the poorest among us," because it would undermine economic growth and provide fewer opportunities for those struggling most. The wealth, the argument goes, won't "trickle down."
The problem, of course, is that we know this is wrong, too.
The Congressional Budget Office recently explained that a higher top marginal rate won't harm the economy, and we can look at recent history and see robust growth during very high top rates -- higher than anything the White House would even consider proposing.
If Lee and his colleagues are sincere in wanting to help "the poorest among us," they can start by extending unemployment benefits. More on that a little later this morning.