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Where are the “Obama Tax Cuts?”

The lame duck session of Congress is shaping up to be dominated by the issue of what to do with the “Bush tax cuts” set to expire at the end of the year. Democrats want to extend the Bush tax cuts only for everyone making less than $250,000, but the Republicans are insisting that they extend the Bush tax cuts across the board. What seems to be completely missing from the discussion are any so-called “Obama tax cuts.”

On Google News, I found 3,568 stories containing the phrase “Bush tax cuts,” but only 35 containing the phrase “Obama tax cuts.”

Since the campaign, President Obama has been planning to leave the tax rate for people making less than $250,000 a year the same as it was under George W. Bush. This actually requires Obama to actively draft and sign an entirely new law preventing the mandated change in tax rates from taking place. Obama clearly thought this was good politics, good policy, or both. Yet, for some reason, the White House is, in effect, letting Bush take all the credit for Obama’s planned extension of these tax rates by allowing the ongoing debate to refer to them as the “Bush tax cuts.”

Why didn’t the White House draft up a new tax law, with a few minor changes, that permanently extended the current tax rate for people making less than $250,000, and label that the “Obama tax cut.” By making a few small modifications, they could even have slightly reduced some tax rates for the middle class. This would allow the White House to legitimately claim the “Obama tax cuts” are not just an extension of the “Bush tax cuts,” they are, in fact, better!

If the administration did that, we would be having a different debate right now. Instead if it being about what parts of the Bush tax cuts we should extend, it would a debate between Democrats, who wanted to put in place the Obama tax cuts, and Republicans, holding the Obama tax cuts hostage unless the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy were also included.

If Obama is going to sign a big deficit-expanding tax law, he should at least get the PR win of making sure the name “Obama” is directly followed by the phrase “tax cuts” in a few thousand new news reports, articles, and blog posts.

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Jon Walker

Jon Walker is political writer and blogger for FireDogLake. He is an expert on health care policy and the politics of health care reform.

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