Paul Greenberg

For some four years now, Barack Obama has been telling us that the dramatic tax cuts that George W. Bush got passed in order to encourage investment, rev up the economy, create jobs, and generally let Americans keep more of their own money were really a disaster.

According to the Book of Obama, those tax cuts led to the Great Recession that it took his administration to end.

But if so, why does he want to extend those same tax cuts? If they were such a bad idea then, why are they such a good idea now? Because a different president is pushing them?

Which raises a second question: If it's important, indeed urgent and pressing, to extend the Bush tax cuts to keep this still sputtering economic recovery going, as this president keeps saying, why exclude those Americans with household incomes above $250,000 a year from the tax cuts he would retain? It's a puzzlement.

Aren't those high earners the very people with the most to invest in the American economy, and so create jobs for the rest of us? Not to mention how investment can raise productivity, encourage innovation, and in general revive a stalled economy.

Why raise taxes only for those with that kind of money to invest? To give their tax lawyers and tax accountants another incentive to find loopholes in the tax code? (As if there weren't enough already.)

Note well: The president's proposal to raise taxes on high earners would include sole proprietors of small businesses and corporations who file as individual taxpayers. Yet small businesses are the kind most likely to hire new workers.

At a time when the country still has an unemployment rate above 8 percent, why punish the most profitable small businesses for thriving? And discourage them from hiring? Because they're successful? And the rest of us are envious?

The president says he just wants to be fair. But if he got his way, these small businesses, tens of thousands of them if not more, would be paying a higher tax rate than giants like J.P. Morgan. This he calls having the richest Americans pay their "fair share."

An impartial observer might be forgiven for suspecting that fairness has nothing to do with the president's latest tax program and everything to do with his winning re-election. The president's proposal to keep only some of the Bush tax cuts in effect is more a cynical ploy in this election season than a feasible economic program. Not that his tax package is going anywhere in this bitterly divided Congress. Odds are the GOP will respond to it in kind, and do its own share of posturing on this issue.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.