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The 'Bush tax cuts' showdown
President Obama insists that the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy lapse, and the GOP insists they be extended. Which side will prevail?
President Obama wants to let the Bush-era tax cuts expire while extending cuts for the middle class.
President Obama wants to let the Bush-era tax cuts expire while extending cuts for the middle class.
Corbis
T

he Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy are becoming a major battle in the war for control of Congress, and President Obama made his case Wednesday for letting them expire. Obama said his proposed $180 billion in new business tax breaks and infrastructure spending, plus extending the Bush tax cuts for the middle class, would help the economy, while the top-tier Bush cuts would be an unaffordable gift "to folks who are already millionaires." With Republicans, and some Democrats, in favor of extending all Bush tax cuts, who will win this fight?

Obama's got a clear advantage: The political upside of Obama's stance "seems totally obvious," says Jonathan Chait in The New Republic. Voters "specifically support, by wide margins, repealing the Bush tax cuts for the rich," and while Republicans are polling better than Democrats, Bush's economic policies "remain highly unpopular." If Obama holds his ground, the GOP has to either cave or side with Bush and the rich and let taxes rise on everyone.
"Bush tax cuts: The politics are obvious"

Republicans got an unlikely assist: House GOP leader Rep. John Boehner's comeback — a two-year extension of all tax cuts — is a "nicely laid trap" for Obama, says Simon Denyer in Reuters, because it explicitly borrows the idea from recently departed White House budget director Peter Orszag. If the GOP can paint a temporary extension as a bipartisan, economy-boosting compromise, Obama's in a tough spot.
"Party games and blame games"

The wealthy win either way: Both sides are missing the point, says Matt Yglesias at Think Progress. People who earn more than $200,000 are the biggest winners in the "middle class tax cuts," too, so the real fight is over tax cuts that "exclusively benefit rich people." In terms of giving the rich a break, that's "apparently a bipartisan consensus."
"'Middle class' tax cuts"

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