As Greg Sargent reports, there is still a chance for Democrats to do the smart thing and hold a separate vote on tax cuts for the middle class:
This is encouraging: One of the most powerful labor leaders in the country just said that he's in direct talks with the White House and Dem leaders about throwing down the gauntlet and holding a vote just on extending the middle class tax cuts -- and that all parties involved are seriously considering it.
Like I've said before, nothing could be better for Democrats than for Republicans to vote against extending tax cuts for the middle class, while pushing those same tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. If you're looking for a quick way to steal the shine from the incoming GOP majority, this is an easy way to do it. Of course, Republicans are aware of this and are trying everything they can to keep this from coming to pass:
The incoming Republican chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee said the GOP will block any proposal that extends tax cuts for the middle class for a longer period than those for the wealthy.
Rep. Dave Camp (R., Mich), said during a Tuesday speech that Republicans will insist on the same period of extension for all of the expiring tax cuts, or go home without extending any of them.
If Democrats insist on a longer period for the middle-class tax cuts, "I think this issue will end up getting kicked into next year," Mr. Camp said.
As far as actual policy is concerned, allowing the cuts to expire for everyone is the best possible choice, since the Bush tax cuts have deprived the federal government of an enormous amount of revenue. A world without the Bush tax cuts isn't particularly onerous -- rates would return to Clinton-era levels -- and would save the government trillions of dollars, effectively closing the short-term budget gap. As for the economy? Tax cuts aren't a particularly good way to stimulate the economy, and over the next decade, the net economic growth from extending the cuts is likely to be small.
Democratic politicians should welcome the GOP threat to block middle-class tax cuts. If Republicans succeed, Democrats can attack them for it, while reaping the policy benefits. And if Republicans fail, then Democrats have a shiny new batch of tax cuts to show for it.
-- Jamelle Bouie