Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 10, 2010

GIVING THE GOP WHAT IT WANTS ON TAXES ISN'T 'MIDDLE GROUND'.... One of the key debates of the day is what to do about tax rates due to expire, and at this morning's White House press conference, a reporter asked President Obama whether there's "room for a middle ground" with Republicans over tax policy, "whereby, for example, the tax cuts on the wealthy could be extended for a period of time and then allowed to expire?"

Obama responded with what I saw as a pretty strong answer. In fact, he did a nice job characterizing his position as the consensus approach: "[M]y position is, let's get done what we all agree on. What they've said is they agree that the middle-class tax cuts should be made permanent. Let's work on that. Let's do it. We can have a further conversation about how they want to spend an additional $700 billion to give an average of $100,000 to millionaires. That, I think, is a bad idea.

"If you were going to spend that money, there are a lot better ways of spending it, but more to the point, these are the same folks who say that they're concerned about the deficits. Why would we borrow money on policies that won't help the economy and help people who don't need help?"

He added that lower rates for the middle class is "something that we can all agree to. Why hold it up? Why hold the middle class hostage in order to do something that most economists don't think makes sense?"

Excellent. It's politics and good policy.

But what stood out for me was the wording of the question. House and Senate GOP leaders said this week that they have an idea for a "deal": Obama would agree to extend the tax breaks for the rich for two years, and then Republicans would demand in 2012 that the lower rates be made permanent. As part of the "deal," the GOP would get everything they want for now, and then fight to get more of what they want during the next presidential election. That, of course, isn't much of a "deal."

Some political reporters, however, seem confused about this. This morning's question said giving Republicans exactly what they want represents the "middle ground." As Atrios noted on Wednesday, even the New York Times described the president's policy as rejecting "a compromise."

This is absurd. Indeed, here's a better framework to consider: some want to raise everyone's taxes, some want to cut everyone's taxes. Obama's vision is a compromise: lower rates for the middle class and lower class, while allowing the wealthiest Americans' top rate to return on schedule.

The president's approach, in other words, is the "middle ground."

Steve Benen 3:45 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (24)

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Comments

What they see now as the "middle ground" would have made them think that Reagan was tongue-kissing Mao as he butt-f**ked Lenin, and got a hummer from Stalin.
Middle ground, my ass...

Posted by: c u n d gulag on September 10, 2010 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

To Republicans, compromise means Republicans get exactly what they want and Democrats get nothing in return. This fits their definition exactly.

See also the Republican definition of bipartisan.

Posted by: atlliberal on September 10, 2010 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

@ c u n d gulag

You have such a way with words. That imagery is thoroughly disgusting.

Such is the Republican talking points....

Posted by: whichwitch on September 10, 2010 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

Liberal media at work again.

Posted by: rusty chainsaw on September 10, 2010 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

Here's how it works.

1. Lower bracket rate cut = tax cut for everyone who pays taxes including the middle and upper class.

2. Middle bracket rate cut = tax cut for middle and upper class.

So, by keeping the lower and middle rate cuts, you've given a cut to the upper class anyway!

Beat the frame.

Posted by: royalblue_tom on September 10, 2010 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

Yes royalblue_tom, but the media don't say much about that and most voters can't and won't figure it out on their own. Steve had a great piece earlier about that, the rich paying less anyway because of them paying whatever each bracket pays up to whatever their income level. We need to say that over and over in comments, call-in etc.

Also, this is good news about Obama taking away tax breaks for job outsourcers:
http://www.indianexpress.com/news/obama-stops-tax-breaks-for-us-firms-outsourcing-jobs/679446/

Posted by: neil b on September 10, 2010 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, be honest, the proposal made by the reporter is the Evan Bayh compromise. Hold the Bush Tax Cuts for the Rich for an additional two years and then let them expire. The traditional Republican position has been to make them permanent. Now lately Boehner and Mitchell have signaled that they would agree to the Bayh compromise. By the way, the President is politically right to stick to his guns. I don't know about whether he is right on the merits in the face of our current recession, but I doubt raising taxes on the top brackets 3-4% is going to make much difference. On top of that I don't think there is much appreciated property out there to benefit from continuing the low capital gains rates. There is room to compromise on the estate tax and on dividend rates that are also going up. For God sake everybody wants us to do something about the AMT.

Posted by: Ron Byers on September 10, 2010 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

What do you expect from these Corporate 'journalists' who have been made millionaires so that they then can serve as the mouthpiece/puppets of the Corporations that hire them, let alone the fact that is THEIR taxes that will increase.

Posted by: stormskies on September 10, 2010 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

Simpler Republican deal-making: "Let's flip a coin. Heads I win, tails, you lose. . ."

Posted by: DAY on September 10, 2010 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

So let me see if I have this straight! These tax cuts expire at the end of the year. That is one extreme, let them lapse. The other extreme would be to extend them for everyone. Therefore a compromise, or the middle ground, would be to extend them for just a few tax brackets! Anything else is no compromise!

Personally I think he should let them all expire. If we don’t then future congresses will use the same trick to evade the law in order to get what they want!

Posted by: mat1492 on September 10, 2010 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

I stand by my prediction that the 2011 will send a bill to Obama making the tax cuts permanent. And there is a 70% chance that he signs it.

Based on some comments I saw in response to this position yesterday I'd also give around 30% odds that the proposal will come out of a lame duck session and about the same odds Obama ends up signing it.

Anyway you look at it, the rich will keep their tax cuts forever.

Posted by: thorin-1 on September 10, 2010 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe I am confused. How are the Republicans "holding up" what Obama proposes. I am seriously asking. Is there a procedural reason why the Dems can't simply put up a quick bill extending the tax cuts that "they all agree on"? Surely the GOP isn't going to filibuster an extension of tax cuts jut because it doesn't go too far?

Posted by: square1 on September 10, 2010 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

some want to raise everyone's taxes

Really? Who? Who wants to raise everyone's taxes? I haven't heard of anyone that actually wants to raise everyone's taxes, but apparently you have. Who are they?

Posted by: josef on September 10, 2010 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

@square1

They've filibustered unemployment extentions. They've filibustered state aid bills. There is better than 50% chance they'll filibuter or block the START treaty. They've blocked votes on over 100 appointments to the judiciary and executive branch positions (people that would pass with more than 60 votes if they were allowed). They've filibustered bills they previously endorsed.

So yes, the Republicans will filibuster a bill that only extends the cuts that apply to the middle class.

Posted by: thorin-1 on September 10, 2010 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

Repubs just want to stall hoping to gain a majority so they can insist the Bush tax cuts remain permanent.

The only way they could get it passed to begin with was via the reconciliation process...the process they now condemn when dems wanted to use it.

I thought Obama could have been clearer in his response. These tax cuts never had support of the majority, never should have happened to begin with, and now should expire as was intended especially since they proved not to be effective in accomplishing what they were intended to accomplish. The wealthiest 1% used that money to enrich the Chinese economy and not America's.

Posted by: bjobotts on September 10, 2010 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

"...Personally I think he should let them all expire. If we don’t then future congresses will use the same trick to evade the law in order to get what they want!
Posted by: mat1492 on September 10, 2010 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

Yes...and then we can go with the "Obama Tax Cuts" for those making less than $250/yr.

Now let us hear a reading of republican compromises since Obama took office...crickets.

Posted by: bjobotts on September 10, 2010 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

I thought Obama was perfectly clear, and this post is even more clarifying. It needs to be spread.

Posted by: jjm on September 10, 2010 at 5:28 PM | PERMALINK

So yes, the Republicans will filibuster a bill that only extends the cuts that apply to the middle class.

Really? Is this the ONLY thing we are worried about?

If anyone else wants to chime in here with another reason Dems can't put this up for a vote, I'm all ears. But so far I'm only hearing that the GOP might filibuster the extension of tax cuts to all Americans at all but the highest tax bracket.

That is, quite simply, the most empty threat in the history of the universe.

If I am a Democratic politician and I am worried about an election in less than 2 months, I can't possibly imagine a greater gift from the heavens (short of my opponent being found in bed with a dead girl or live boy) than a promise that my opponent will stand on the floor of the legislature and read from the phone book in an effort to ensure that the voters' taxes go up during a recession.

For the love of God, do the Democrats EVER want to play politics? This is how it is done. The GOP's strength is on taxes. Make them either oppose a tax cut or agree to your proposed tax cuts. There is no downside here.

Posted by: square1 on September 10, 2010 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

Let all of the Bush's tax cuts expire at the end of the year, *as scheduled*. Don't cherry pick -- this one's good, that one's bad -- don't even discuss it. Instead, immediately start a debate on New! Improved! *Obama* tax cuts. For just the lower and middle class. And let the Repubs be seen baying against those.

Posted by: exlibra on September 10, 2010 at 6:06 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, OK. I see I have the same idea as Atrios, which is discussed by Benen in a posting below. Perhaps I ought to be a pundick :)

Posted by: exlibra on September 10, 2010 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

I heard Mara Eliason on NPR talk about the "panic" dems feel about the upcoming election.

Time to cowboy / cowgirl up - as the above posts suggest. Put a nice fat juciy perm. tax cut for 97% of Americans in a bill - that will be the "compromise - the Obama tax cut. Add in the new public works stuff; how about adding the American Invest Bonds; add in immediate kicks to vets health care; add some more ed. support for people willing to work on Vet care; And get your damn appointees to a vote.

Stay in F***ing session on M and F, Harry. DO THINGS! MAKE THE BASTARDS OPPOSE HELP FOR THE MIDDLE CLASS; MAKE THEM OPPOSE VET HEALTH CARE. etc. They want to be the party of No, and Crazy? THEN let them have it. BOTH BARRELS

Posted by: bigutah on September 10, 2010 at 6:23 PM | PERMALINK

It is ceding ground not middle ground.

Posted by: ET on September 11, 2010 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

Okay, let's eliminate taxes. But to do so and still function let's have all businesses intenalize their costs and let the consumer pay the higher prices.

If WalMart and General Motors and Toyota had to factor in the cost of cleaning up their environmentl messes, say, their prices would have to go up considerably. Would we rather pay the higher prices or pay taxes to clean up after them?

Posted by: shadou on September 11, 2010 at 7:23 PM | PERMALINK

What else are the dems going to do? Cave and lose, cave and lose.. .it's a cycle.

Posted by: ShifterX on September 11, 2010 at 8:34 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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