Strong opinions, weakly held

Why Republicans are fighting for the Bush tax cuts

Here’s a short post on politics. The Republicans claim to care most about the deficit and restoring fiscal sanity for the country, and yet the biggest fight they’ve put up has been to defend the Bush tax cuts, which are set to expire at the end of the year. If all of the cuts were allowed to expire, then nominally speaking, the projected budget deficit over the next 10 years would fall by trillions of dollars. (Ignore the degree to which a large, sudden tax increase would stunt economic growth and thereby worsen the fiscal picture going forward.)

When the tax cuts passed 10 years ago, they were given an expiration date so that they could be passed through the reconciliation process, thereby avoiding a Democratic filibuster. The Republicans bet that in 2010 (in other words, now), the Democrats would not be willing to make the unpopular move and allow the tax cuts to expire in the face of all out Republican resistance. Predictably, they were right. Democrats are not going to let the tax cuts expire.

Here’s the important thing: those tax cuts are to Republicans what the health care bill should be to Democrats. It was the signature legislative achievement of the Bush Presidency and their Congressional majorities from 2001 to 2006. They passed other bills, but it’s the one they most wanted, as demonstrated by the fact that they will stop at nothing to defend it. Rank hypocrisy is no deterrent when it comes to preserving an achievement that you fought so hard to gain in the first place.

Update: This is an accurate description of the big picture.


  1. What a hypocrite. Our president said time after time that that those tax breaks will be repealed. So what does he do? how extends them in exchange, to be able to spend more of our money. What a joke.

  2. Thanks. I think the deal completely, utterly blows but I put the blame 90% on the Republicans and 10% on Congressional Democrats who threatened to blow the whole thing.

    At least we got something in exchange for the high-end tax cuts. Maybe Pelosi can turn it into something better.

  3. I do think every deal has to be evaluated through the lens of a Congressional process that is hopelessly broken, and through that lens, this was probably the most stimulative policy you could get. Yes, it sucks, but it is perhaps the least sucky thing that could have been accomplished.

  4. You talk like you think raising taxes brings in more money. It doesn’t. It just slows the economy down, and you end up collecting less money anyway. The people who pay those taxes get a vote. They can refrain from investing, defer income, take their vacation instead of working, and a host of other micro and macro decisions that will lessen their tax burden.

  5. One party doesn’t have the guts to raise taxes. The other party doesn’t have the guts to cut spending. The result? We cut taxes and increase spending. This is compromise at it’s worst.

    Well, that’s another $800 billion our kids will owe to someone…who cares anymore?

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