Based on news reports this week, you’d think President Obama plans to run as a fiscally conservative Republican in 2012. Democrats have expressed outrage over his apparent tax compromise with Republicans, allowing the "wealthy" to keep their George W. Bush-era tax cuts.
It’s rumored that one disgruntled Democrat even muttered "F**k the President!" during a contentious caucus meeting of House Democrats. Chants of "Just Say No!" could be heard coming from the meeting room—a far cry from the "Yes We Can" slogan that whipped Obama Democrats and voters into a fleeting frenzy just two years ago.
But don't be fooled by the political theater. Setting aside the deeply flawed provisions in the bill that make it unworthy of approval (the death tax revival, cash grants for green energy programs, vote-bribing pork, deficit-increasing spending, etc.), amidst this controversy there is a much deeper philosophical issue that deserves examination.
The American people are being led to believe that these tax cut extensions are a complete compromise for Obama and Democrats—that they are now essentially tax cutters. But let’s be clear. These tax levels are the status quo. To allow their expiration means a tax increase.
House Speaker-designate John Boehner’s spokesman accurately referred to the tax cut expiration as "job-killing tax hikes." Taxpayer-defending Republicans should not allow Democrats and the media to define the terms of the debate by using specious claims that this a huge tax cut for the wealthy. Without the extension, this is a huge tax increase for every taxpayer who is being squeezed in order to prop up Washington’s irresponsible spending. Even the word "extension" connotes centralized authority to allow taxpayers to keep the current tax level for a little while longer.
This is the wrong premise from which to even begin the debate over whether to extend tax cuts. The money belongs to those who earn it—not the tax collectors. We will decide how much we are willing to give to government in order for it to do those things the people cannot do individually, such as protecting our nation through a strong military and conducting international diplomacy.
Democrats would have the public believe they are cutting taxes and championing the middle class. But maintaining current tax rates during a recession isn’t a heroic act, it’s common sense. Or rather, real common sense would actually mean cutting spending and taxes to truly stimulate the economy.