Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

President Obama needs to end Bush tax cuts for everyone

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“I make under $250,000 and I don’t want the Bush tax cuts to continue, even for me.”

In today’s political world, that would be considered a brave and foolish statement. Why would you turn down a chance to have your federal taxes lowered?

Chances are that if you are a Barack Obama supporter and you make under $250,000 (the vast majority of Obama supporters make under a quarter million dollars), you don’t want the president to keep the Bush tax cuts for anyone, much less yourself.

In today’s political world, going against the vast majority of your supporters is brave and foolish. In not-so-olden times, political capital was spent to make bigger, broader decisions to help the country, even at the expense of one’s supporters (Civil Rights Act leaps to mind).

Extending the Bush tax cuts into a potential second Obama term doesn’t qualify as a bigger, broader decision.

These cuts were bad news when they were passed in 2001. The surplus in the Clinton years was taken away and given to the rich. One unjustified war and one questionable war, both of which went unfunded, made a bad situation even worse. During the 2008 election, those in Obama’s camp wanted all the Bush tax cuts gone in 2009, the first year of a potential Obama Administration. They stayed around like a rotting fish, but the smell is getting worse. The Bush tax cuts have stayed around for four more years at a time where the country could use the money, especially from the wealthy.

To Obama’s supporters, the president has two crucial problems on this issue. Obama can’t seem to make up his mind on how long these tax cuts should last. In his latest proposal, President Obama is asking for one more year. He sounds more like a whiny child wanting to stay up another half-hour. In another year, Obama will ask for another year, assuming he gets elected. No one believes it will be one year and out.

Obama’s other credibility issue goes to his definition of wealthy and the middle class. Candidate Obama pointed out in 2008 that 94% of Americans make under $100,000 a year, well before the economic collapse in fall 2008. His definition of wealthy as less than $250,000 is rather insulting yet fits in well with the Beltway mentality. Couples who live in the DC area point out that, for them, $250,000 as a couple isn’t that much, but they shouldn’t be dictating tax policy for the 99%. They live in an expensive area, but they are still better off than most Americans.

Obama is a pawn in the Democratic Party’s drive to appeal to the middle class, at least to define them as far richer than the middle of our economy actually is. Obama’s definition is bad, but better than the Democratic House version that extends the tax cuts to those making less than $1 million. While those under $100,000 tend to vote Democratic, this is despite what the party stands for, not because of it.

Now, President Obama does want the wealthy to pay more, and by more, we mean the rate they paid under President Clinton, when this country was in a lot better shape.

The Republican House and Senate leadership want the tax cuts to be permanent. Even as that stance is horrific economic policy, they have been remarkably consistent. President Obama is trying to do what he thinks is the right thing yet he hasn’t convinced anyone that this path is good, and he has lost this battle every time he has gone into the ring.

Who is President Obama fighting for? His claim is anyone making under $250,000. This is approximately 98-99% of the country. Yet very few outside of the inner White House circle are on his side.

Obama’s supporters aren’t against a tax cut in itself, just not now, just not these cuts. If the president were smart, he would come up with a wiser tax plan that could be the “Obama tax cuts.” Imagine a President Romney or a potential GOP president fighting to get rid of the “Obama tax cuts.”

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