Yes, There Is a Mandate for Higher Taxes

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Nov. 7 2012 1:13 PM

Yes, There Is a Mandate for Higher Taxes

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Kudos to John Boehner for getting out early and trying to spin the election.

Listen, our majority is going to get reelected. We’ll have as much of a mandate as he will — if that happens — to not raise taxes. He knows what we can do and what we can’t do — I’ve been very upfront with him about it going back over the last year and a half.

Insofar as a "mandate" exists at all, Boehner's just completely wrong. First, like I wrote earlier today, the GOP's House majority has been protected by gerrymanders in rust belt states and North Carolina. In large states with nonpartisan redistricting—Arizona, Florida, California—Democrats are gaining seats. (They lost a member-to-member contest in Iowa, which also has nonpartisan redistricting.) Boehner's returning to D.C. with a smaller majority, which is not usually the mark of a mandate for anything. Take away those Michigan/Ohio/Pennsylvania/North Carolina gerrymanders, and he'd be returning as the minority leader.

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Second, Barack Obama ran on one consistent tax promise, in both 2008 and 2012. Vote for him, and you'd see middle-class tax rates stay the same while the rate on income over $250,000 increased to 39.6 percent. In 2008 and 2012, Republicans whaled on Obama for that message. If you flipped on TV in a swing state, you heard all about Obama's "trillion-dollar tax increase." Last month, in a comment that Republicans derided for its gaffitude, Joe Biden repeated the claim about tax hikes and leaned into the mic, drawing out his promise: "Yes. We. Will." For months, Republican strategists told me that they'd beat Democrats on the tax issue just like they beat 'em in 2010.

They didn't beat Obama. Twice, in four years, a majority of voters have picked Obama for president, knowing full well that he'll raise upper-income tax rates.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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