The Republican cognoscenti know that we have a lower tax burden now than we've had since Truman was president. They know that billions in subsidies to big oil are very unpopular, even within their own party. They know that tax breaks for corporate jets make no sense to the American voter when teachers are being laid off. They know full well that during the recent debt ceiling debate, polls repeatedly showed that a majority of Republicans agreed that any debt deal should include tax increases on the wealthy.
But the Republicans in Congress would stand for none of it. Now, why is that? Are the Republicans so beholden to the Tea Party extremists that they will ignore the wishes of most of their voting base? Are they so blind to the polls? Certainly not! The Republicans are not stupid, they are quite well aware of all these. But that again begs the question: why would they ignore all the polls and stick unwaveringly to positions that are unpopular within their own party? The answer's easy: it's all about power.
America suffered with the Great Depression for three years under Herbert Hoover, and came out of it under FDR. Conservative historians argue (from a position of ignorance) that FDR prolonged the Depression. But the fact remains that FDR pulled us through the Depression and through WWII. America also remembers clearly that by the end of the Clinton era, we were running a budget surplus that would have paid off our entire national debt by 2012. They also remember what happened in the Bush years that followed.
So what would happen if President Obama were successful in pulling us all the way out of the great recession, and were somehow able to bring our budget even close to a surplus once more? If he did, in all upcoming elections the Democrats would have a nearly unbeatable talking point in that they would be able to show America what happens when Republicans have control, and how the Democrats had to be the ones to put out the fire, so to speak. Oh, the conservatives would try to explain away every little point, but they would not be able to overcome the obvious simplicity of: