Republicans For Tax Increases!

I figured the reactions of Republicans to Mitt’s “Boca Moment” might be as interesting as the predictable outrage of us godless liberals, and Michael Walsh of National Review has already served up a very fine example. Lots of conservatives are already telling Team Mitt to make the best of the situation and go all out in attacking “entitlements” (though that might involve reining in some of the attacks on Obama’s vicious Medicare cuts), or the safety net, or hell, those people. But Walsh distinguishes himself by calling on Mitt to openly espouse regressive tax reform, including higher taxes on the poor. Dig it:

What he ought to do is step up and embrace the basic division in our nation, including the fact that nearly half the country pays no income taxes. Acknowledge it — and then explain why, morally, this is not a good thing. Why having no skin in the game while at the same time demanding a say in the proceedings at the federal level is fundamentally undemocratic. One need not embrace the Starship Troopers ethos of Robert A. Heinlein to understand that in a democracy, everyone should pay something — and that to confuse the issue of the (Progressive-era) 16th-amendment-sanctioned federal income taxes with Social Security (“payroll”) levies and state and local taxes is intellectually dishonest.

And then put a tax plan on the table that blows everybody away — a top-to-bottom rethink that asks something of everybody, but rewards the labor of all, and eliminates the built-in bias toward class warfare that Democrats have long counted on and continue to exploit.

Walsh’s logic here would lead even more naturally to a heartfelt cry for the restoration of poll taxes. But that, of course, would require a constitutional amendment; better to do what can be done through state electoral laws to keep the looters at bay, and maybe count on the virtuous people of America to chip in with a little volunteer voter intimidation at the polls.

But will any Republicans join Walsh’s plea to Mitt for higher taxes on the poor?

I do recall watching in awe as Rick Perry deployed the “lucky ducky” argument about the non-taxpaying 47% in his presidential campaign launch, eliciting a feral roar from his audience unlike anything I’d heard in the cycle. In that instant, it became clear that some conservatives hate poor people so much that in order to stick it to them they would abandon the one unshakable commandment of their ideology for the last quarter-century. One thing we may find out in the days just ahead is exactly which rage-based political appeal is most dear to conservative hearts in a presidential contest that’s beginning to go south–what they want their candidate to say, when illusion is no longer an option.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.