by Eric Martin
When then-President Bush was pushing through his multi-trillion dollar tax cut proposals early in his first term, concerns about the impact such cuts would have on the fiscal bottom line were waved away using primarily the following three arguments: First, there were sunset provisions built-in to the tax cut measures, so their effects on future budget deficits would be limited in duration.
Second, there was the bizarre assertion by discredited (even by his own admission) financial "sage" Alan Greenspan that absent such tax cuts, we could end up paying down the national debt too quickly (pause for bitter laughter/tears). Finally, there was the usual Laffer Curve hocus-pocus that suggested the tax cuts would pay for themselves (a theory that may have been plausible when top marginal rates were dropped substantially from their 70-90% highs, but less so when the top rate of 39.6% was lowered to 35%).
With the second two prongs of that tripartite already eviscerated by recent history, there has been an effort, of late, to ensure that the first prong is also rendered ineffectual. While Obama's recent budget plan does allow for some of those Bush tax cuts to expire as planned, he is facing opposition from this position from some expected, and somewhat unexpected, sources. Regardless, those fighting against the expiration of certain of Bush's tax cut provisions according to their statutory mechanisms are using a noxious blend of demagoguery and hypocrisy.
For example, David Brooks' latest column opens up with his unsupported assurance to the reader of his "moderate" bona fides. It was, ostensibly, Brooks' moderate sensibilities that led him to support Bush's series of massive tax cuts, despite the fact that no nation in recorded history had ever cut taxes in a time of war, and Bush kept his in place (and added new ones) while the nation was embroiled in two wars. That was the cautious approach.
Further, the fact that Bush's tax cuts tilted majorly to the wealthiest Americans was no indication that supporters of the tax schemes were favoring those...that the law favored. It was purely incidental happenstance. On the other hand, Obama's proposal to allow certain portions of Bush's tax cuts to expire (those accruing to the benefit of the most fortunate among us) is, according to Brooks, born out of a "revolutionary fervor... predicated on class divide" - moves likely to stoke widespread "class resentment." A "social-engineering experiment that is entirely new."
For those keeping score at home, the Brooksian model:
Supporting enormous tax cuts primarily benefitting the well-off while fighting two wars: moderate, time-tested, class-blind, entirely reasonable.
Allowing portions of those tax cuts to expire and return to Clinton-era rates: revolutionary, radical, class warfare.
On the Democratic side of the aisle, Evan Bayh is leading the charge of the soi disant Democratic moderate caucus in opposing Obama's plans to raise taxes "on the wealthy" by allowing prior cuts to expire on schedule. But what Bayh doesn't mention is that he voted against Bush's tax cuts when they were introduced to the legislature way back when. At the time, voting against those tax cuts was moderate. Now, allowing them to expire is...extremist?
Other moderates of note - Mavericky John McCain being one - have come right out and called the return to Clinton era tax rates socialism! And that's just the moderates. Other leading conservative voices, from John Boehner to Rush Limbaugh to Jim DeMint have also hyped the New Red Scare! (which would be the tax rates during the Communist 90's as they're now known).
John Cole puts the charge of socialism in context with charts and graphs!
The 2010 proposed rate of 39.60% = socialism.
The 2002-2008 rates of 35.00% = capitalist nirvana.
The 39.6% rate of the 1990’s = socialism.
Everything else = down the memory hole.
That Obama fellow sure is soaking the rich, isn’t he?
Revolutionary Fervor! Can you feel it!