The other night a friend of a friend who I hadn’t seen in a while came up to me at a party. “So,” he said, “what’s it like being one of the five other Republicans on campus?” I laughed. “I’m not. Sorry to disappoint you.”
I often come off as relatively conservative on this campus, which is a bit of a challenge when I’m supposedly writing the “liberal” column. My discomfort with the more radical of political and social movements here means that I often find myself more comfortable with friends who are actually Republicans; had I grown up in a different political climate, I probably would have been one myself. At heart, I’m a fairly conservative person. I could never have been a hippie even to the modest extent that my parents were: I don’t think I look good with a beard or with long hair, I don’t like to smoke and I like to wear nice clothing. I believe in balanced budgets, I’m not a fan of the unions that cripple our education system and our economy, and I believe that American power has a legitimate place on the world stage. But although I developed a bit of a man crush on Jon Huntsman throughout the primary process, I could never actually vote for a Republican for a major party office, at least not in today’s climate.
I’ll leave a discussion of social and scientific issues for a later time; many of the Republicans I know in our generation believe that two people who love each other should have the privilege to marry, that global warming and evolution are unshakable truths, and that abortion, while sad, is a settled political issue.
The reason that I could never vote Republican is both simple, extremely important and — sorry — somewhat boring: tax policy. The current Republican orthodoxy on taxes is bad for this country, morally reprehensible and does not make any sort of economic or even mathematical sense. When every serious Republican candidate takes a solemn vow to never raise taxes, it should raise warning bells for any rational voter. What do Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton have in common? All of them raised taxes in order to reduce budget deficits.
One of the leading Presidential candidates, whose first name is — according to polls — either “Willard” or “Mittens,” pays a tax rate of less than 14 percent and would receive a massive tax cut under his own economic plan — and the plans of his rivals — while the taxes on the poor and middle class would rise. There are not enough words to truly capture the horrifying and callous hypocrisy of this position. When can we stop pretending that lowering taxes on an extremely comfortable wealthy population will do any good for the working class in this country? When will we stop pretending that the Republicans give a flying fox about balancing the budget when their only solution is to lower already historically low tax rates? It is time to seriously address the twin devils of economic inequality and extreme budget deficits. Happily, both have a solution; the same solution.
As the recession draws to a close, and the American economy begins a tenuous recovery, President Obama must take the politically tough position and allow the Bush tax cuts — a failed and foolish experiment in Reagonomics — to expire in full. We could not afford them at the time, nor can we now. That alone will go a long way toward rebalancing the budget. At the same time, we must close the most ridiculous of the loopholes in the tax code. There are far and away too many deductions and loopholes — for second and third homes, for company cars and for private jets — that allow the wealthy and the clever to pay even lower rates. We heavily subsidize oil companies and giant farms while small business stagnates, and the rest of the economy suffers. We must also raise the capital gains tax rate to 25 or 30 percent so that the mega rich do not pay such an absurdly low rate.
It is wrong that Romney — who earned more than $20 million in 2010 — pays a lower tax rate than my high school biology teacher, who made around $60,000. Call it the Buffet rule or the Romney rule — we need reform, and we need it now. Until I see a Republican with a rational view of tax reform, I’ll blindly pull the lever for the Democrats every time.