Capitol Idea: Kill The Bush Tax Cuts, Pass Obama Tax Cuts

It’s clear by now that Democrats have to do something big and fast if they are to avoid political gloom, or even Armageddon, in the November elections.

Republicans, conveniently, appear willing — no, eager — to hand them such help, if only Democrats will take it.

I’m talking about the extension of Bush-era tax cuts that are set to expire at the end of the year. These are the huge tax cuts enacted by President George W. Bush and a Republican-led Congress, which were considered a signature acheivement of Bush’s first term.

Those tax cuts are due to disappear on Dec. 31 unless Congress acts to extend them. President Obama wants to extend only those cuts aimed at the middle class, while letting the tax cuts for the richest 2 percent of taxpayers end.

Republicans, not surprisingly, want to keep all the tax cuts going, including those for the wealthy. As a result, the GOP is fairly champing at the bit to turn those tax cuts into a big 2010 campaign issue, and Democrats should be more than happy to oblige.

After all, future tax cuts represent an opportunity for Democrats to take the high road and pander to voters, all at the same time.

The key is for Obama, and by extension, the Democratic Party, to take full ownership of the tax cuts. Why should the president or Democrats in Congress waste any breath arguing this way or that way about tax cuts that have the name of Obama’s predecessor attached to them?

It does Obama and his Democratic allies virtually no political good to make an argument that says essentially, “Well, we want to get rid of the last guy’s tax cuts — except those that we like.”

The “Bush” tax cuts ought to be banished to the ash heap of history once and for all. They are too needlessly tilted to the rich, and would only serve to blow a $700 billion hole in the federal budget at a time when the budget deficit already is ballooning.

Obama should let the Bush tax cuts become as forgotten as whatever passes for a 2002-vintage dance craze or fashion fad. The president should seize the election-year initiative by laying out those tax cuts he favors and putting his brand on them.

From now until November, Obama shouldn’t let a day go by in which he tells Americans, “Democrats have a plan to cut your taxes.”

Let the GOP scream and sputter. Every time they do, and each time the Republicans complain that the rich aren’t getting their extra cut, Obama and his Democratic friends simply can call the Republicans’ deficit bluff and explain — rightly — that those tax cuts for the richest Americans are just a luxury we can’t afford right now.

Data indicates that this is an area ripe for Democrats to define public opinion and win voters.

Polls indicate that twice as many voters still blame Bush for the poor economy as blame Obama. A majority also happen to agree with the president that the tax cuts for those making $250,000 or more a year should be allowed to expire.

A recent Ipsos/Reuters poll found Americans would rather reduce the deficit instead of lower taxes by a margin of 54 percent to 43 percent. By promoting his own “Obama tax cuts,” the president could appear to satisfy both by lowering taxes in a fiscally responsible way.

Most importantly, though, a Democratic tax-cut plan gets Obama and the Democrats off defense, puts them on offense — and simply steals Republican thunder when Democrats need to steal it the most.

Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade. Capitol Idea is his regular column from Washington. This article was first published as Kill The Bush Tax Cuts, Pass Obama Tax Cuts on Blogcritics.

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