I'm not sure what to think. On Monday, The Hill ran a piece reporting the White House had basically caved on the Bush tax giveaways to the wealthiest Americans.
The White House, seeking an agreement to raise the nation's $14.3 trillion debt ceiling by Aug. 2, on Monday said it would not insist that any deal include an end to former President George W. Bush’s controversial tax rates on the wealthy.
President Obama's tactics are coming into focus as he huddles with congressional leaders to try and break the deadlock on increasing the debt ceiling.
Before a meeting Monday between Obama and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), White House officials said the president would push to close tax breaks for major oil and gas companies; end tax loopholes for corporate jets; and impose regular income tax rates on the carried interest earned by investment fund managers.
And, at a press conference yesterday, he called for just that. "If we choose to keep those tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, if we keep the tax break for corporate jet owners, if we choose to keep tax breaks for oil and gas companies that are making hundreds of billions of dollars, then that means we've got to cut some kids off from getting a college scholarship," the president said. "That means we have to stop funding certain grants for medical research. That means that food safety may be compromised. That means that Medicare has to bear a greater part of the burden. These are the choices we have to make."
"More broadly, Obama stopped just short of saying he would not accept a final deficit deal without a high end tax hike," Greg Sargent wrote at the previous link. "But his presser made it clear that he will will relitigate this fight and make it central to the campaign. And while we should keep in mind that Obama did ultimately cut a deal on the high-end tax cuts last time around, those who are hoping he will continue to make a strong moral argument in favor of ending them should be pleased by what they heard."
Really? I should? Ending tax subsidies for Big Oil would be great, but will ending a tax credit for corporate jets actually do anything? I mean, how much can that possibly be? Sure, it's nice to hear the president "make a strong moral argument" against our tremendously unfair tax code, but wouldn't it be even better to suggest targets that would actually even things out a little bit?
It's easy to single out fatcats in corporate jets -- mostly because they do deserve to pay more. But they deserve to pay a lot more. Our current economy situation is largely the fault of bankers and corporate execs, yet any move toward leveling of the tax burden is always symbolic.
Here's hoping that Obama abandoned seeking an end to the high-end tax cuts only as a way to get a deal on the debt limit. Here's hoping he goes into the campaign for reelection calling for an end to the free ride for the super-rich. Here's hoping he continues to call for shifting the tax burden back to those who can afford it and away from working people.
But as he does, here's hoping he means it.