Obama's push to let some Bush tax cuts expire draws GOP fire 

The Obama administration's push to raise taxes for Americans in the highest income brackets is already causing the White House election-year headaches.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner triggered a rapid response from the GOP when he told ABC News, "It makes sense to let those tax cuts that only go to two percent of the highest-earning Americans in the country expire as scheduled."

House Republican Leader John Boehner called ending the tax cuts part of a larger agenda of economic failure by the administration.

"Instead of abandoning his job-killing agenda, the president wants to raise taxes on families and small businesses to keep his government 'stimulus' spending spree alive," Boehner said. "Listen, after 18 months, 9.5 percent unemployment, it's time for us to start working together to stop these 'stimulus' policies that aren't working."

Republicans are pushing to preserve the Bush-era tax cuts for all income levels. The 10-year cuts expire at the end of the year and must be renewed by Congress.

President Obama has signaled he will preserve tax cuts for individuals making less than $200,000 a year and for families below $250,000. Those making more would see their tax bills go up.

White House officials are preparing for Friday's monthly jobs report, managing expectations by saying they predict unemployment could exceed the current rate of 9.5 percent.

"It's possible you're going to have a couple months where it goes up," Geithner said.

The Obama administration's inability to show significant progress on job creation has bedeviled its political message for the fall. Most voters call jobs and the economy their top issues -- and give Obama low marks for his policies.

Gallup's tracking poll rates Obama's approval at 45 percent, and disapproval at 46 percent.

Facing record high deficits, the administration is under pressure to generate more revenue. But politically, letting tax cuts expire is tricky.

Republicans are calling the prospect a tax increase, and the issue is gathering momentum as the midterm elections approach in a political environment rife with economic anxiety.

"We look forward to the debate over the appropriateness of raising taxes in the middle of a recession," said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. "I think we already know the record of the last year and a half."

It appeared likely that both sides, after engaging in a full-throated election year debate over tax policy, would defer the issue until after the November midterms.

At the same time, however, Republicans have struggled to propose their own cogent program of spending or other cuts to address the federal deficit, which is expected to reach $1.47 trillion this year.

Obama has repeatedly criticized the Republican tax-cut solution. He has two special commissions studying federal budget issues.

"The president believes that adding $700 billion to our deficit for tax cuts for those making in excess of $250,000 a year doesn't make sense," said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs.

Gibbs also dismissed a claim from Republicans that letting the tax cuts expire will hurt small business. The White House estimates only 2 percent of small businesses would be affected.

jmason@washingtonexaminer.com

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