Republicans Don't Have a Mandate to Extend the Bush Tax Cuts...

.... so there's no need for Democrats -- or anyone else -- to pretend they do.

In response to the elections last week, President Barack Obama's weekly address concerned extending the Bush tax cuts, which will expire at the end of the year if nothing is done. Obama is sticking to his guns and doubling-down on his compromise offer, at least for now: "One: middle class families need permanent tax relief. And two: I believe we can’t afford to borrow and spend another $700 billion on permanent tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires."

It's a sensible move. While Republicans -- who want to extend the entire deficit-exploding package indefinitely -- earned the bulk of votes in the midterms, a glance at the exit poll reveals that public opinion isn't behind their plan. Only 39 percent of Americans think the entire package should be extended, 37 percent believe only the middle income tax cuts should remain, and 15 percent think none should be extended. Meanwhile, the voters' highest priority for the next Congress is reducing the deficit; the second highest is spending to create jobs, both of which would be furthered by Obama's position on the tax rates. Only 19 percent of Americans think cutting taxes should be the highest priority.

Republicans, meanwhile, say that "there'll be no compromise on tax cuts," which is just the sort of arrogance that usually backfires for a new majority. It may be hard for the Democrats to hold the line on their plan thanks to a weakened majority in the Senate, but forcing the issue could help re-energize their party and remind voters how irresponsible Republican tax policy is.

-- Tim Fernholz

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