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Tilting at Windmills

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September 10, 2010

'OBAMA TAX CUTS'.... Atrios offers a very compelling idea when it comes to Democratic messaging.

I've said it before ... but I have no idea why we're talking about the "Bush tax cuts" instead of talking about how Bush's tax cuts are expiring as he intended, and meet the new and improved "Obama tax cuts."

Can I just take a moment to enthusiastically endorse this? The tax policy debate has been stuck in a weird place -- what, everyone has been asking, are we supposed to do with rates set by Bush/Cheney?

But the tax policies of the Bush/Cheney era were a failure. They didn't create jobs, they didn't generate vast economic growth, and they contributed to massive explosion in federal debt. Republicans who passed them, hoping to play a little budget shell game, set the rates to expire at the end of 2010.

So, to borrow a phrase, let's turn the page. That policy didn't produce the desired results, and now it's coming to an end. Going forward, we'll have a new policy -- Obama tax cuts, on top of the cuts he approved last year, would make lower rates permanent for the middle- and lower-class. Obama would allow a modest increase to the top rate for the wealthiest Americans -- just as he promised to during the election -- but the rich would still get a cut on the first $250,000 they make, thanks to the way marginal rates work.

Congressional Democrats, especially those worried about re-election, would therefore take a stand in support of the "Obama tax cuts" for the middle class.

Why not go with rhetoric that's likely to resonate, and which has the added benefit of being true?

Steve Benen 1:40 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (39)

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This is just so painfully obvious it makes me wonder who should be fired over this messaging failure.


Posted by: Newton Wahle on September 10, 2010 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

Great idea!!!

Posted by: Maritza on September 10, 2010 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

I think the reason the Democrats never have an effective message is that the consultants we get are either imbeciles or Republican operatives working to undermine the party.
Or, it could be both!

Posted by: c u n d gulag on September 10, 2010 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

Will the mainstream media, which feeds at the well of Republican talking points, without a thought as to their truth, not condemn the Dems for their "untruth" if this plan is followed?

It's a great messaging idea, I'm just saying that it's not guaranteed to work. Repubs get a free pass. We don't.


Posted by: Ian on September 10, 2010 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

As usual, Atrios makes so much sense his idea should be completely disregarded.
That has worked out so well for everyone in the past.

Posted by: MikeBoyScout on September 10, 2010 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

i do think Obama should argue for holding taxes at Bush/Cheney levels for everyone below $1 million, at least until deflationary crisis abates. $250k and even $500k is close to home for many Americans, and certainly within the range of their aspirations. By going after those households, he allows the $10M households to hide behind the $250k people. Intuitively, Americans understand that $1 million in income is alot and that dollars earned beyond that should be taxed at a higher rate. And it would begin to address disgrace of this generation, which is income polarization, rising oligarchy, and the deterioration of the middle-class.

Once the economy is on sounder footing, go after upper-middle class, but for now, leave them alone and go at the >$1 million folks. It would be WAY more politically astute.

Posted by: Patriotic Liberal on September 10, 2010 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

It's funny, given the Constitutional provisions regarding the House, how we refer to Presidents' tax cuts and raises anyway ... Yeah I know that parties tend to follow their leader but it's an odd phrasing. Well, here's an idea to help US employment: tie business tax credits to FICA payment by companies. That forces it to directly reflect only the amount paid to US citizens (ideally ...) and also only up to a certain pay per person.


Posted by: neil b. on September 10, 2010 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

BTW, I agree with Patriotic Liberal. Raise only above 1M is better politics and many professionals (that do actual productive work) make up to around 500k, whereas above 1M is usually from speculation or pay for heading company (and hence greatly tied to competitive advantage, not net service to a genuine customer.)

Posted by: neil b on September 10, 2010 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

the Media twists the expiration of Bush Tax Cuts for the Rich into an Obama tax increase on the middle class. Because the owners of the Media are "the RIch". It's hard to get your message out if the opposition is the messenger.

Posted by: T2 on September 10, 2010 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

And while they deliver this new and improved message maybe they can also help the average imbecile of American that after eight years of the Bush/Cheney/ Corporate/Regiglican agenda, including all those tax cuts for their rich pigs, that after all of this not only did it almost destroy our economy, and the world economy, but after eight years it produced exactly ONE MILLION JOBS. THAT'S IT. And of course then to remind all that Clinton created 23 million jobs by taxing the rich. And that Obama has already surpassed Bush et-all in his policies of creating jobs even within the total fucking mess that they left behind. And how come the fucking Corporate Media is not reminding all about these facts ? Gee, I wonder why ...

Posted by: stormskies on September 10, 2010 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

Yours Truly and a ton of other posters on this site have been suggesting this obvious tactic for some time now.

Let the Bush Tax Cuts expire, then propose Obama Tax Cuts for the middle class and MAKE THE GOP RUN AGAINST IT.

This ain't rocket science, folks. But we already know that.

Posted by: bdop4 on September 10, 2010 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

As a SoCal Angeleno, I also endorse the $1 million threshold. Making $200K (two-incomes) buys you a comfortable, but not extravagant, lifestyle in this town.

I'm fine with $250K, but $1 million is better optics.

Posted by: bdop4 on September 10, 2010 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

The reason that this won't fly is that everyone knows that the plan all along was to ingnore the phase out when the time came and that the phase out was just an accounting gimmick.
It is just like pointing out that Saddam didn't have weapons of mass destruction. Big deal, nobody on the right cared if we were justified or not, they just wanted to kick some A-rab ass.

Posted by: phg on September 10, 2010 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

There is a new report out by one of our government agencies which states that as a result of these Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans that their overseas investments went up approximately $2trillion. Just heard it on the Thomm Hartmann program.

So much for all the jobs these tax cuts were supposed to bring...they were all created in China.

Time for them to be replaced with the Obama tax cuts...which will definitely be invested in America by those who really need it.

Posted by: bjobotts on September 10, 2010 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

From a political/rhetorical point, it is smart to call them the Obama tax cuts. But from an intellectually honest standpoint there is a very good reason to call them the Bush tax cuts: Democrats wouldn't be proposing them if Bush hadn't already.

The Clinton tax rates were fine. Like others, I would support a higher rate on a very high tax bracket >$1M. But there is no real reason to have taxes for the rest of us to have our tax rates be permanently below where they were in the 1990s. All these tax cuts do is increase the deficit. And there is 0% chance that Democrats would be clamoring for permanent tax cuts now, at least without commensurate spending cuts, if Bush hadn't already passed them for 10 years.

Posted by: square1 on September 10, 2010 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

The Bush tax cuts were established to last for ten years. The ten years is up. They will expire.

So now lets pass the Obama Tax Cuts. And lets do it through reconciliation, the same way the Bush Tax cuts were passed.

Posted by: sceptic on September 10, 2010 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

@ Patriotic Liberal: $250k and even $500k is close to home for many Americans

No, dammit, it isn't. That's the top TWO PERCENT of income. BY DEFINITION it is not "close to home for many Americans." It is stratospherically high. If $250K and even $500K are "close to home" for you, you are at the front of the line already. Let the rest of us have a goddamn turn.

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on September 10, 2010 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

@ bdop4: Making $200K (two-incomes) buys you a comfortable, but not extravagant, lifestyle in this town.

I don't want to play "Quien es mas macho?" here, but, seriously, if you're making $200K you are in fact MUCH MORE COMFORTABLE than the rest of us, and I'm not too inclined to look sympathetically on your wish for relief to support your "comfortable but not extravagant lifestyle."

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on September 10, 2010 at 7:07 PM | PERMALINK

Another vote for just letting the failed Bush tax cuts expire as the legislation states.
I definitely agree as well that the Congressional Democrats should immediately put together a bill that retains the middle and lower level tax cuts while returning the top rates to whatever they were before 2001. It's both good politics and good economics; THAT doesn't happen often!
As the economy improves, tax levels for the middle and lower calsses can gradually be returned to whatever they were prior to 2001. Should more monies be needed to reduce the deficit/fund new programs, we then start increasing the marginal rates on the highest incomes. In order to make it "fair", for every 1% marginal rate increase on upper incomes, we can increase ALL other rates by 0.1%. Considering that the obscenely rich already possess 9 out of every 10 dollars in this country, it's only just that they pay marginal rates 10 times greater than everyone else.
The cries of "class war" and "stealing the hard-earned dollars of honest American's" will rattle the Heavens, or I don't know my punditocracy! The MSM will run horror stories of those forced to sell their homes to pay taxes at a "confiscatory level" while, amazingly enough, failing to mention that said person still has another three or four houses and, of course, the obligatory "little place" in France.
Threats to take their wealth to some other country may also be aired, backed by doom-laden music as the reader (no trouble-causing journalist he) tries to imagine for the viewer the barrenness of American life minus the obscenely priviledged.
Ok, so the last two paragraphs are just daydreams, but the first three ARE serious!

Posted by: Doug on September 10, 2010 at 8:22 PM | PERMALINK

LMAO... this pitiful mis administration hasn't got a clue of how to run an economy....

Their mantra is "we can't go back"

Back to the last thirty years of unprecedented growth, back to Bush record job creation, 52 straight months by the way, the longest period in history.
Or back to the record tax revenue created by the Bush tax cuts, the SPENDING caused by 9/11 and Katrina caused the deficits, not the war, not the tax cuts.
How can the leftards even dispute these facts?
Well, perhaps we can go about saving the Republic starting in November...

Posted by: RealAmerica on September 10, 2010 at 9:01 PM | PERMALINK

Why not go with rhetoric that's likely to resonate, and which has the added benefit of being true?

Because Democrats are political incompetents.

Posted by: Bernard Yomtov on September 10, 2010 at 9:27 PM | PERMALINK

I have 2 questions about the Repub complaint that most small businesses will be hurt because they make $250K or more: (1) do MOST small businesses really make that much annually? and (2) aren't business rates different from personal rates? Is there a proposed increase in corporate/business rates? I don't think so. (we know that the huge corps don't even pay taxes or pay far less than they should -- if only we could close those Cayman loopholes)

Posted by: pea on September 10, 2010 at 9:59 PM | PERMALINK

"Can I just take a moment to enthusiastically endorse this?"

Yes. But I don't think that just a moment is enough.

Posted by: Owen on September 10, 2010 at 10:51 PM | PERMALINK

What puzzles me about President Obama is that he refuses to use the presidential veto as a threat to shape and mold legislation in Congress.

It's as if he still views himself as a senator instead of President of the United States.

For instance, the budget-busting deficit-exploding Bush tax cuts expire at the end of this year, as per the time limit put in place by Bush and the Republicans for their expiration. No further legislation in Congress is required before the end of this year.

President Obama, therefore, could state emphatically that IF any legislation does come out of Congress and hit his presidential desk before these Bush/Republican-spawned tax cuts for the rich expire, legislation that retains any tax cuts or loopholes for the wealthiest 2 percent, then he will veto it immediately. No wavering. No wishy-washy. No compromise with the culture of corruption and deceit Republicans.

And once these budget-busting deficit-exploding Bush/Republican tax cuts expire, President Obama and Democrats early next year can enact and sign into law, like someone said above, "Obama's tax cuts," ones meant to stimulate cash flow among the middle-class and poor, thus stimulating economic activity and growth, creating jobs and helping small businesses in the process.

Something, IOW, that would appeal to progressives and other sane Americans right now, stimulating the interest of progressives (and maybe even some Independents) in voting in November for Democrats, through showing that Democrats are focused on the well-being of ALL American citizens, not just the well-being of the wealthiest, as the Republicans are.

Think of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. We already know what the Republicans' version of "I Have a Dream" would be...money, Goldline, favoritism shown to the rich, favoritism shown to corporations, favoritism shown to the religious fundamentalists.

The Democrats need to make clear that their "I Have a Dream" speech would be completely opposite the Republicans' "I Have a Nightmare in Mind for America" speech, because this is what the Republicans are really saying, as we saw extensively during the criminally-insane Bush/Cheney years.

What is President Obama's "Dream" for America. What is Rahm Emanuel's and David Axelrod's? What is Nancy Pelosi's and Harry Reid's? What is the "Dream" of all the Democratic Party candidates running for elected office this November?

We already know the dark "Dream" Republicans and their candidates have in mind for America. Democrats need to be clear about what the Democratic Party's "Dream" is, just as MLK Jr. was in his historic "I Have a Dream" speech 62 years ago, just as FDR was as he was leading our nation out of the Hoover/conservative-caused Great Depression. Clear. Succinct. No compromise with the culture of corruption and dark "Dream" conservative Republicans.

Democrats would then experience a landslide in November.

Posted by: The Oracle on September 10, 2010 at 11:39 PM | PERMALINK

'.. I've said it before ... but I have no idea why we're talking about the "Bush tax cuts" instead of talking about how Bush's tax cuts are expiring as he intended, and meet the new and improved "Obama tax cuts".'

Simply put, the "Obama - Bush" confrontations, real or imagined, in general spice up the news. The News media needs excitement, not simple boring logic or facts to sell "air". If the Dems don't give them something to hype, they'll keep doing it for them. Talking heads have mouths to feed too you know!

Posted by: Hessville T on September 11, 2010 at 6:38 AM | PERMALINK

You're so right, if you mean by 'didn't create jobs or stimulate the economy' that those tax cutes didn't totally stop recessions from happenig and lead to 10% GDP growth per yet, which they clearly didn't- instead, all Bush's tax cuts did was create a marginal 3-5% growth rate for 7 years! That's awful! Those tax cuts clearly were a failure, right?

And just imagine if Bush hadn't passed those tax cuts- our government would have been pulling in the same revenue that it did in the Clinton years, which was less than it did in the Bush years, which means that less would be spent on services and welfare, which means that in a sick way, Bush's tax cuts acutally let the government spend more on liberal dreams... wait, where was I going with that?

And my word- if it wasn't for those Democrats holding the line on debt and spending, imagine what the debt would be like in our nation if the Republicans and conservatives would have had their way! They might have had trillions in debt each year instead of only a couple hundred billion!

You're all morons.

Posted by: A Conservative Teacher on September 11, 2010 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

Watching Steve reason:

"But the tax policies of the Bush/Cheney era were a failure. They didn't create jobs, they didn't generate vast economic growth, and they contributed to massive explosion in federal debt."

Having said that about the Bush policy failure, he then proposes retaining roughly 80 percent of the cuts.

Posted by: bob somerby on September 11, 2010 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

I couldn't help but notice that not even one post even hinted at the idea that maybe the federal government should reduce spending.

Posted by: russ on September 11, 2010 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

One other thing before I go: I looked up "federal revenue" and I see that after the "Bush Tax Cuts" began in 2003 federal revenue spiked up from 2.1 Trillion to 2.7 Trillion. Laffer Curve once again proves itself to be true. Cut tax rates, revenue to the US Treasury increases. Anybody who took Econ 101 in freshman college understands how it works.

Posted by: russ on September 11, 2010 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

"I couldn't help but notice that not even one post even hinted at the idea that maybe the federal government should reduce spending."

Kerry, Rangel and Geithner are working on this as we speak. Waters also has a savings/investment plan she'll be presenting soon too!

Posted by: Yachtsman on September 12, 2010 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

Obama is only employing the great "bait and switch" ploy with a cynical twist: he has no intentions of cutting anyone's taxes; now or ever! His deceitful play - let the Bush Tax cuts expire and then all of a sudden find it shockingly impossible to enact new tax cuts! His excuse: "The Deficit! The Deficit!" You see he has already spend all available money and he needs more.

Posted by: RPU on September 12, 2010 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

The answer to your question is pretty simple. The left is so fixated on taxing the rich and the issue of relative inequality that it unthinkingly framed the issue in those terms rather than an absolute benefit to Americans without regard to income level

Posted by: mark on September 13, 2010 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

I find it amusing that the term is Bush's tax cut for the "Rich". But at the same time, they want the tax cut for the "Rich" to expire, but keep the tax cut for the middle and lower class in place. If it was a tax cut for the "rich", then how can you keep the tax cut for the middle and lower class incomes if there wasn't indeed a cut for them as well?

Posted by: K C on September 13, 2010 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

LOL - it's an EXTENSION of most of the Bush tax cuts. Although Bush made some economic mistakes, his 2003 reductions of marginal tax rates led to more than 8 million new jobs in the next four and a half years. Under Bush, the unemployment rate dropped to 4.6 percent.

And almost all economists agree that the 2007-08 financial meltdown was a housing-bubble and credit event. It had nothing at all to do with cutting taxes.

Posted by: steamboat on September 13, 2010 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

Glad to see class envy is alive and well at this site.

Posted by: saleboter on September 13, 2010 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

When tapping out a comment about messaging, it might be best to avoid a mangle mixed metaphor such as "feeds at the well." The word you want is trough, or alternatively, drinks.

Posted by: cunninglinguist on September 13, 2010 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

wow the rich get a tax cut on there first 250,000!! Thats funny cause i thought it all his money.. someday when I grow up I hope i get all my money taken by the government!! please come one people its been proven in the past that raising taxes makes government revenue go down. Though I know its kinda a wierd concept keeping your money that YOU have made. not the government :)

Posted by: Ryan on October 6, 2010 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

The mind can be and is often (sadly) held captive by the education one chooses to subject them selves to. Education through a biased and seemingly bigoted media, and or skewed religious views, usually results in a distorted world view. Also distorted political views, so what I am trying to say here is; I am moving to BC Canada to live in a Yurt(http://coloradoyurt.proxy.calltoday.ws/new2007/img/large/yurt_landing_15.jpg), the miss information is the U.S. is astonishing. But I guess that is the way it goes, "the free thinking of one generation becomes the commonsense of the next". With that in mind I look forward to the day I out live glen beck, and the miss informed republicans who commented on this article. I am 17 and a profeshional athlete, the odds are on my side that I will live to see a brighter day. Your all fucked, enjoy your life lived in fear. Republicans, tea party motherfuckers, and glen beck followers, are far to self rightous for this to be a hurt full message. Dont wory im just venting, thats what the digital age is all about right?? being electronickly noticed, like on facebook aka how little girls get connected with old men who have the means to grant them that semin covered death they all dreamed of! hahaha I pitty main streem society's children. And yours of course, "a conservative teacher".

Posted by: Michael Barron mtb on November 2, 2010 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

I've been wondering why the "Obama Tax Cuts" are never mentioned. These were much more meaningful to me, and will be again when I file 2010. How about a billboard that reads something like this:

"The Obamatax cut helped my son pay for college...Thanks, Mr.President...That's a change we needed!"

Posted by: Bill on November 18, 2010 at 9:38 PM | PERMALINK



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