Memo To Democratic Leaders In DC: Go Beyond The Buffett Rule, End The Bush Tax Cuts

As Rachel Maddow explained so eloquently a while ago—Voodoo Economics such as the Bush tax cuts—never work.

It’s tax season. So in next few days, you'll be hearing a lot of politicians in Washington DC talk about the Buffett Rule, which, if passed, would ensure that millionaires pay at least 30 percent in taxes on their income. The President and his Democratic allies in Congress are rallying around it.

The “Buffett Rule” is important, but it shouldn't be a substitute for rolling back the Bush tax cuts, which along with disastrous wars of choice, are responsible for the last decade's spike in our national debt. In case you missed it, an editorial in today's New York Times made the case clearly (emphasis mine):

The Buffett Rule, which would raise an estimated $50 billion over 10 years, would not make an appreciable dent in the deficit or provide a lot more for essential programs. By comparison, letting the Bush-era tax cuts expire for taxpayers making more than $250,000 a year, as the president has also called for, would raise $800 billion over 10 years.


Mr. Obama must ensure that the Buffett Rule does not become a substitute for ending those tax cuts.

To put all of this in further context, in recent weeks we have been hearing a lot of disconcerting rhetoric coming out of Washington DC about the need to cut our social safety net under the guise of deficit reduction. It’s been disheartening to see Democratic leaders talking up right wing talking points about the need for "shared sacrifice" and a "grand bargain." This is code for raising the retirement age and making brutal cuts to vital programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

There is no need for our leaders to make concessions like these at the beginning of negotiations. In fact history has shown us that such pre-emptive caving leads to disastrous results. If the Democratic establishment is serious about addressing the national debt and deficit, there is a simple way to do it: Let the Bush tax cuts permanently expire at the end of 2012. Adopting the Buffett Rule alone simply will not cut it.

CREDO Action and Senator Russ Feingold’s Progressive United are stepping up to make sure that Democrats get the message loud and clear that we can address our revenue needs by ending the Bush tax cuts and making corporations pay their fair share. Full disclosure here: I work as the Deputy Political Director at CREDO Action, an amazing organization of 2.8 million plus activists, who fight for progressive change on a number of issues.

We believe that if the Democrats want to show a genuine commitment to enacting progressive tax policies that will help address the economic injustice in this country, they need to not just pass the Buffett rule, but also make sure to end the Bush tax cuts and make corporations pay their fair share.
Had President Obama decided not to cut a deal with the Republican leadership and extend the low Bush tax rates in December of 2010, additional revenue would already be "flowing into the U.S. Treasury" at a rate of "$11.6 million every hour of every day." Generating those revenues by requiring the top 1 percent to pay their fair share as they were doing prior to the Bush tax cuts, would have neutralized the beltway clamor for brutal cuts to programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in the name of reform.

Focusing on the Bush tax cuts isn't only just, it's also smart politics. We don't have to pass a bill through the Republican-controlled House — all we have to do is ensure that Congress doesn't pass a bill that extends the Bush tax cuts past 2012. More than a decade after they were signed into law, it is clear now that the Bush tax cuts were a huge mistake. Without the implementation of those disastrous cuts, our economy "would have been in much stronger shape to weather all the fiscal storms of the past 10 years, and much better prepared for those of the next 10."There is absolutely no reason for President Obama and the Democratic leadership in Congress to repeat that same mistake. We hope you will join the cause of telling the Democratic leadership that they need to go beyond passing the Buffett Rule.

This is a fight progressives can win if we are relentless. We need to speak up and lay down our marker today to let the Democratic leadership in Congress and the White House know that we expect them to hold the line against what has turned out to be one of the most disastrous economic policies enacted in our nation's history.

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