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THE MUSINGS OF A TRADITIONAL SOUTHERN DEMOCRAT

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Location: Douglas, Coffee Co., The Other Georgia, United States

Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The momentum is moving in wrong way: 3rd Senate Dem. comes out publicly in recent days in favor of extending all the tax breaks for the time being.

Given our country's heightened concern on the out of control budget deficit, I think most Americans would buy into letting all of the Bush tax cuts expire. Some Democratic leaders have been floating this idea, but have been provided no cover by the White House.

I know it is a close issue given the state of the economy, but putting off the day of reckoning is just kicking the can down the road.

Some of my readers will remember what Sen. Russell Long said about tax reform: "Don't tax you, don't tax me. Tax that fellow behind the tree."

There is no free lunch, and it is time for all of us to have to begin paying for Bush's two financed wars and prescription drug program and huge tax cuts, plus what President Obama has heaped upon us in his short 18 months as we have been spending money like drunk sailors.

The Democrats are far from perfect, but what really galls me is how the GOP advocates that pay as you go means Congress should have to pay for any new spending to avoid increasing the deficit, but that tax cuts shouldn't have to be paid for.

From The Wall Street Journal:

Two more Senate Democrats called for extending tax cuts for all earners—including those with the highest incomes—in what appears to be a breakdown of the party's consensus on the how to handle the expiration of Bush-era tax cuts.

Sen. Kent Conrad (D., N.D.) said in an interview Wednesday that Congress shouldn't allow taxes on the wealthy to rise until the economy is on a sounder footing.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D., Neb.) said through a spokesman that he also supported extending all the expiring tax cuts for now, adding that he wanted to offset the impact on federal deficits as much as possible.

They are the second and third Senate Democrats to come out publicly in recent days in favor of extending all the tax breaks for the time being. Sen. Evan Bayh (D., Ind.) made similar comments last week.

"As a general rule, you don't want to be cutting spending or raising taxes in the midst of a downturn," Mr. Conrad said. "We know that very soon we've got to pivot and focus on the deficit. But it probably is too soon to cut spending or raise taxes."

The comments from the senators represent a departure from what appeared to be an emerging unified Democratic stance on the Bush tax cuts, which held that those for the wealthiest Americans should be allowed to expire.

President Barack Obama and most Democrats want to extend only the breaks benefiting taxpayers who make $250,000 or less.

Allowing breaks for higher earners to expire would push the top individual tax rate to 39.6% from 35%, and would raise rates on capital gains and dividends, too.

The breaks enacted in 2001 and 2003, which affect taxpayers of all income levels, expire at the end of this year.

Republicans and many business groups favor extending all the breaks, contending that increasing tax rates will hit small businesses hard. With U.S. employment still weak, some centrist Democrats are agreeing, prompted to change their stance by the still-ugly economic picture.

In addition to Messrs. Conrad, Nelson and Bayh, at least half a dozen House Democrats also have come out publicly in favor of postponing tax increases for higher earners

Democrats can't afford to lose many of their own members on the issue. At a minimum, the internal party debate increases the odds that Democrats won't tackle the question of extending the tax cuts until after the November election.

Further delays will expose Democrats to Republican charges that they want to allow all the tax cuts to expire, which the Democrats deny. It is possible that any extension would be only temporary.

Rep. Sander Levin (D., Mich.), chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, said Wednesday that no decisions had been made on when to take up the tax cuts in the House, but he said the Senate "needs to act first."

Republicans are hoping the expiring Bush tax cuts become a bigger issue in the August recess, when lawmakers go home to talk with constituents. Already, House Republicans have begun pointing to the "ticking tax bomb" that will go off at year's end absent congressional action.

The GOP, for its part, runs some risks pushing for an extension of all the tax cuts, given the nation's sharpening focus on the budget deficit.

A one-year extension would cost at least $115 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Republicans have been pushing Congress to pay for any new spending to avoid increasing the deficit, but they argue tax cuts shouldn't be paid for.

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