Jonathan Chait

Bush Tax Cuts: The Politics Are Obvious

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I don't see how the question of whether the Obama administration should extend the Bush tax cuts only on income over $250,000 a year is even a question. This seems totally obvious. Let's walk through this.

1. Voters in general are in favor of pretty much any measure that takes money from the rich. And they specifically support, by wide margins, repealing the Bush tax cuts for the rich

2. George W. Bush's policies remain highly unpopular, but the Democrats' problem is that Americans don't believe that Republicans would continue those policies:

Do you think if Republicans win control of Congress in November they will return to the economic policies of George W. Bush or do you think they will have different ideas for how to deal with the economy?

Policies of George W. Bush 35

Different ideas 58

So isn't a high profile fight forcing Republicans to defend Bush's signature economic policy a good idea?

3. Democrats are caught in the dilemma of having promised to extend all the tax cuts that have any benefit for taxpayers earning less than $250,000, despite the near-imposibility of reconciling that pledge with sustainable fiscal policy. So why not let the Republicans do their work for them? Put up a popular bill to extend tax cuts on income below $250,000. Let Republicans block it. Then you get to attack them as so loyal to George W. Bush's economic agenda of aiding the rich at all costs that they're blocking a middle class tax cut. And then either they give in, or the deficit picture starts looking better. In the meantime you keep running on a middle-class tax cut, over and over, make that the theme of the elections and 2011.

I mean, really -- what is the hang-up here?

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