WASHINGTON - Ten years after President George W. Bush cut income tax rates, his decision still remains at the epicenter of debate over future economic policy.
President Obama, who came charging into office vowing to repeal the Bush's tax cuts, has been blocked at every turn by the Republicans, but also by some members of own party who thought it was insane to raise taxes in the midst of a recession when businesses were struggling and so many Americans were out of work.
He reluctantly threw in the towel at the end of last year when the Bush tax cuts were set to expire, conceding that this was "no time to raise taxes" in a high unemployment economy that was still struggling to recover. No kidding?
It was a grudging decision made from a position of weakness after Republicans swept Democrats from power in the House and slashed their majority in the Senate -- largely on the issue of raising taxes in a weak economy.
With Congress in a budget stalemate over keeping the government funded into the next fiscal year, Obama cut a deal with the Republicans to extend the Bush tax cuts for two more years.
But he hasn't given up and neither have the Democrats in Congress. He has been campaigning virtually nonstop across the country, pounding Republicans for their refusal to raise taxes and once more pointing to the Bush tax cuts as the cause of all our economic ills.
Obama flies to Scranton, Pa. Wednesday, a 2012 battleground state where polls show he is in deep trouble.
"He's talked a lot about the Bush tax cuts, but the only thing he's ever done is extend them, and he's on record favoring many of them," said economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office who often advises Republican candidates.
After his cave-in on the Bush tax cuts last year, he drew another line in the sand on the debt-ceiling debate, saying that it was time for upper income Americans to "pay their fair share." Never mind that taxpayers in the top income brackets pay the lion's share of of all income taxes, while the bottom 40 percent pay zero income taxes.
The debt-ceiling battle ended with a compromise on the size of the budget cuts to be worked out, but the Bush tax cuts survived.
But then the tax cuts came under renewed assault in the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction that was part of debt-ceiling deal. After months of negotiations, the panel couldn't agree on a plan to cut $1.2 trillion in deficit spending over 10 years, and once again the sticking point was the Bush tax cuts.
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