Surrender: Republicans betrayed their own limited-government precepts

Jeffrey T. Kuhner

The Republican Party has capitulated to President Obama’s redistributionist tax agenda. Mr. Obama has won a significant victory. He has broken Republican ranks and effectively co-opted much of the GOP opposition. The Republican Party, especially House Speaker John A. Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, will rue the day.

Many House and Senate Republicans voted to pass the “fiscal cliff” legislation. Mr. Obama got almost everything he wanted: a massive tax increase on households earning more than $450,000 a year as well as major increases on capital gains, dividends and estate taxes. It is the largest tax increase in more than 20 years. Its primary victims will be small businesses, investors and job creators.

The deal amounts to a GOP surrender. The Republicans violated their core principle of not raising taxes — especially during a sluggish economic recovery. Moreover, the deal does nothing to promote deficit reduction. In fact, it increases spending by more than $30 billion, with much of the money going to extend long-term unemployment benefits. Hence, the GOP caved on taxes while getting no real spending cuts. The result is that the legislation will add another $4 trillion to our ballooning national debt.

The Republicans should be ashamed. They betrayed their fundamental principles and their constituents in exchange for a hollow public relations victory. Mr. Boehner may have saved his speakership, but the GOP is a fractured, demoralized party. He was elected as House speaker because of the efforts of Tea Party Republicans in the 2010 midterms. Their agenda was clear: hold the line on taxes, spending and deficits. Instead, the GOP has become complicit in passing Mr. Obama’s soak-the-rich, anti-business policies.

For Republicans, the deal is both bad policy and bad politics. The Obama tax increases will cripple growth, undermine business investment and probably push the sputtering economy into a double-dip recession. This will lead to higher unemployment, economic sclerosis and even bigger deficits. Yet Mr. Obama and the Democrats will not own the disastrous economic downturn. Republicans will be blamed as well. Their fingerprints are all over the legislation. Rather than running against the Obama recession and thereby setting up a potential huge victory in 2014, the GOP has lost its credibility as a low-tax, small-government party. No wonder Tea Party Republicans are enraged. Mr. Obama outmaneuvered both Mr. Boehner and Mr. McConnell. Neither GOP leader deserves to retain his post.

The huge tax increase marks a watershed moment for the Obama presidency. The president has achieved what he’s always wanted: the higher revenue stream needed to fund his European-style entitlement state. In fact, he vows that more tax hikes are coming. The reason is simple: European-level spending requires European-level taxes. Mr. Obama’s welfare liberalism cannot be sustained without confiscatory taxation.

Mr. Boehner deluded himself into believing he could craft a “grand bargain” with the president. The House speaker has fundamentally misjudged Mr. Obama. Mr. Boehner falsely thinks the president is a traditional Democrat. He isn’t. Mr. Obama is a radical progressive who seeks to transform America into a secular social democracy. He is not interested in slashing spending, balancing the budget or reforming government. Instead, Mr. Obama wants only one thing: to expand the federal Leviathan. According to his leftist view, soaring deficits are necessary to dramatically boost spending and eventually compel higher taxes. Mr. Boehner was wrong to think he could negotiate spending cuts or meaningful deficit reduction with Mr. Obama.

Not every Republican voted for the deal. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida voted against it. One Tea Party Republican stood out in opposition to the bill: Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. He vocally predicted the deal would add trillions to the debt, soak the rich and entrench Mr. Obama’s class-warfare policies. Furthermore, Mr. Paul warned Republicans that breaking their pledge to not raise taxes would alienate the GOP’s conservative base. He is right.

Both Mr. Paul and Mr. Rubio are positioned to lead the Tea Party resurgence. Mr. Rubio has consolidated his status as the Republican front-runner for the 2016 presidential nomination. Mr. Paul is emerging as the voice of the conservative opposition in Congress. He is the modern equivalent of Sen. Robert A. Taft, the principled Ohio Republican who waged a frontal assault on the New Deal. Like Taft, Mr. Paul believes in limited government and restoring our constitutional republic. He is the intellectual leader of the GOP.

The Republican Party is in tatters. It has been crushed by Mr. Obama’s ruthless political machine. It is up to the Tea Party to pick up the pieces. Otherwise, nothing else stands in the way of Mr. Obama.

Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a columnist and editorial writer at The Washington Times. He also is the host of “The Kuhner Report” from 6 to 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. to noon on WRKO AM-680 ( in Boston.