Democrats Finally Getting It Right on Taxes

A blog about business and economics.
July 18 2012 8:33 AM

Democrats Embracing the Smart Strategy on Taxes

Democrats: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.; Senate Majority Whip Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill.; Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.; and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.
Democrats: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.; Senate Majority Whip Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill.; Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.; and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

Photograph by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

Back in June I complained about what I called Democrats' strange obsession with tricking Republicans into voting for tax hikes. It's no secret that Democrats favor more tax revenue. And lucky for them, taxes are scheduled to go up automatically in January to a level that's higher than Democrats themselves favor. So all Democrats need to do is let taxes go up in January, and then propose to bring them back down somewhat. But instead the party has invested tons of effort during the Obama years into trying to get Republicans to cast an affirmative vote in favor of higher taxes.

I got a ton of immediate pushback from folks in Congress about that, explaining that it was all very complicated and groundwork was being laid and blah blah blah, and now Jonathan Weisman reports in the New York Times that Democratic senators are coming around to embracing the inevitable:

Senate Democrats—holding firm against extending tax cuts for the rich—are proposing a novel way to circumvent the Republican pledge not to vote for any tax increase: Allow all the tax cuts to expire Jan. 1, then vote on a tax cut for the middle class shortly thereafter.

Now, of course, there's no reason you can't walk and chew gum at the same time. You write two bills. One is called the "Middle Class Tax Cut Extension Act of 2012," and one is called the "Middle Class Tax Cut of 2013." One says the Bush tax will be partially extended; the other says that having expired the Bush tax cuts will be partially reinstated. You hold one in your right hand and the other in your left hand, and you keep trying to get votes on the one through Dec. 31, 2012, and start trying to get votes on the other starting on Jan. 2, 2013. That's a plan that's guaranteed to work if Democrats win the election in November, and obviously nothing's going to work if they lose.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.


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