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December 31, 2012 9:58 AM The Full Table

By Ed Kilgore

Beyond the payroll tax issue I mentioned in the last post, any serious fiscal talks aimed at avoiding a recession should include other items that aren’t drawing a great deal of attention given the obsession with tax rates. As it happens, TNR Jonathan Cohn has drawn up a comprehensive list. You can go read it yourself, but I’d draw special attention to this subject:

The Refundables: These should be getting a lot more attention than they are. In 2009, the federal government expanded the Earned Income Tax Credit, which basically boosts wages for the working poor; it expanded the Child Tax Credit, which gives working people extra money to pay for their children’s needs; and it created the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which helps people pay for college tuitions. Extending all of these, as President Obama has sought to do, would plow $250 billion into mostly lower- and middle-income families that could use the help.
Once upon a time, conservatives hailed programs like these because they rewarded people who were trying to help themselves, by working or going to school. Now conservatives bash them, because, supposedly, they are creating a class of people dependent on government. Republicans haven’t made a big stink about them in the fiscal cliff debate, but that doesn’t mean they’re ready to endorse them without demanding something in return.

I actually think getting rid of these important tax benefits for the working poor and middle class is a bigger deal to conservatives than Jon suggests: it’s part of what Republicans have been thinking about every time they’ve mentioned “tax reform” or “eliminating tax loopholes” as a way to avoid or mitigate tax rate increases. You know, while we’re cutting back on the tax code yummies of Big Oil or Big Finance, let’s make sure Big Poor takes its hit as well.

Jon’s list concludes with the issue that may well dwarf all the others: the debt limit. Why should the White House and congressional Democrats make concessions to the GOP if Republicans intend to save their real psychotic fire and their real threats to the economy for a debt limit fight just weeks down the road? Beats me.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • sjw on December 31, 2012 10:11 AM:

    We will know later today whether the re-elected Obama has become the Savvy Negotiator or he's really just the same old Lousy Negotiator he had been. I'm trying to stay positive, hoping that a trade, say, on the tax floor up from 250K to 400K brings with it some of what is described above.

  • Josef K on December 31, 2012 10:20 AM:

    any serious fiscal talks aimed at avoiding a recession should include other items that arenít drawing a great deal of attention

    The obvious answer is that these are not "serious fiscal talks". Oh, the President and the Democratic caucus appear to be taking them as such, but the GOP caucus is...well, the GOP caucus, and thus its grasp of reality is a little 'challenged'. Wouldn't you agree? Its just possible that they've even convinced themselves that the federal government will come crashing down should they go over this nonexistant cliff.

    Why should the White House and congressional Democrats make concessions to the GOP if Republicans intend to save their real psychotic fire and their real threats to the economy for a debt limit fight just weeks down the road? Beats me.

    Possibly for the same reasons so many American journalists and citizens didn't initially believe reports about the German concentration camps; its just too hard to believe rational, civilized people would deliberately initiate such destructive and immoral policy. A similar disbelief afflicts our own thinking today; nobody seems to want to actually believe that half our body politic are prepared to deliberately crash the economy in service of a completely discredited theory of governance. We don't want to believe the Republican caucus has the courage of its convictions, and those convictions involve destroying our way of life.

    Just my own take on it all. Take it for what it is.

  • c u n d gulag on December 31, 2012 11:03 AM:

    Anyone else here remember back when Big Poor had it's own set of lobbyists?

    Yeah, me neither...

    Hey, wait a minute!
    Yes, Big Poor, did!
    They were called "Democrats."
    REAL Democrats - not the Whoreporatists with a "D" next to their names, that we have now.

    And today's Republicans don't just want a pound of flesh.
    They say, "You can keep your pound of flesh, poor people.
    It's the rest of your feckin' body we want!"

    Oh, and Joseph K - I agree with you.
    But how are 'we the people' supposed to know that one of our two parties is both clinically insane, and stupid beyond description, if our MSM Fourth Estater's get paid big bucks to not tell us?
    And that's assuming they notice anything, except the number of zero's on their paychecks.
    "Liz Cheney is such a lovely woman at the kids soccer games. And that Paul Ryan is quite funny at the cocktail parties I've seen him at."

  • T2 on December 31, 2012 11:25 AM:

    the only plain truth coming out of these "negotiations" is one that we've all known for years: Republicans don't care about the Debt/Deficit nearly as much as they care about eliminating taxes for Very Rich. The state of the nation is just a sidelight, to be used when expedient to advance low tax on the Rich. That's why their current "negotiations" don't do much to cut the deficit....that's not what they are in it for. But the ernest Democratic Party has decided that, by god, they are going to do something about the deficit even if it means letting the Rich skate by. The Dems hold every single good card in the deck, and they are still scared to call.