The Democrats’ legislative program has proved unpopular with voters, but we haven’t yet gotten to the really unpopular part: the most massive tax increase in American history, scheduled to occur on January 1. Congressional Democrats have mostly avoided talking about it in hopes that voters won’t notice that their taxes are about to shoot up. The Democrats’ plan has been to defer discussion of taxes until after the election, when the lame duck session would symbolically extend a few of the Bush tax cuts while allowing the vast majority to expire.
That plan, however, overestimated the ignorance of the average voter, something on which the Democrats routinely count. A Rasmussen poll out today finds that 66 percent of voters now say taxes are a “very important” issue, up ten percent from May’s survey:
So word of the impending tax increase is percolating through the electorate. You can bet that the 66 percent who think the tax issue is “very important” don’t mean that they are yearning for unprecedented increases.
The New York Times, meanwhile, lets the cat out of the bag:
An epic fight is brewing over what Congress and President Obama should do about the expiring Bush tax cuts, with such substantial economic and political consequences that it could shape the fall elections and fiscal policy for years to come. …
The issue has generated little public attention this year as Congress grappled with health care, financial regulation, energy, a Supreme Court nomination and other divisive topics. But it will move to the top of the agenda when lawmakers return to Washington in September from their summer recess, just as the midterm campaign gets under way in earnest. In recent days, intense discussions have begun at the Capitol.
Beyond the implications for family checkbooks, the tax fight will serve as a proxy for the bigger political clashes of the year, including the size of government and the best way of handling the tepid economic recovery. …
At a closed-door meeting of the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday, participants said Democrats were clearly divided while Republicans wanted assurances that any bill would be developed openly, allowing them to propose amendments. In a sign of how combustible the issue could be, Senator Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat and the committee’s chairman, has so far refused to make that commitment.
Transparency in government? To the Democrats, that’s like garlic to a vampire. But secrecy can only take the Democrats so far. The American people are waking up to what the Democrats have in store for them, and nothing can prevent that knowledge from shaping November’s election.