23 August 2011

Payroll Tax Cut? or "Go Big, Go Long, Go Global"? Both, I guess

The Republicans have now coalesced around not extending the Payroll Tax "holiday" included in the budget deal last December, which is downright weird, unless you accept the fact (as I do) that they basically hate and couldn't care less about the interests of working and Middle Class people, and care only about the interests of the very rich. So a tax cut that only benefits working people? They don't like it, and won't support it. Makes perfect sense.

So now we read about a "full throated" Democratic push to extend this tax cut.

I was dubious about this idea in the first place. Tax cuts... of any kind... are weak stimulus. And I worry that this undercuts the financial strength of Social Security, which only adds fuel to the Republicans' efforts to portray the program as "in trouble" and "in need of reform." This is actually a ridiculous position on its face in light of the actual facts, which are that Social Security is solvent for decades without any changes. But reducing revenue to the Social Security Trust Fund is not the best way to ensure that Social Security remains protected going forward. Obviously.

Given polling that shows that even a significant majority of Republicans favor increasing taxes on the very richest and closing corporate loopholes (like oil, agribusiness, Pharma; tax breaks for offshoring jobs and assets, etc.), I think the Democrats should focus instead on these areas.

But hey, I get it, that the optics of Republicans fighting for what (in their own formulation, as used in the debate about extending the Bush cuts for the richest) is a tax increase, just works for Democrats.

But let's not lose sight of the fact that most people now get it that the Republicans are fighting for the rich to keep their tax breaks, a very unpopular position. Democrats, and the President, have a historic opportunity to portray the Republicans as out of touch with ordinary people, and working for the interests only of the very rich.

E. J. Dionne, writing in the Post yesterday, urged Obama to "Go Big, Go Long, and Go Global," meaning he needs to make his economic proposals into a major program to revamp the entire economy, as soon as possible. Of course the Republicans will fight tooth and nail; they will anyway. But the President needs a real program that would actually work to run on.

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