Attention-whore Joe Lieberman is at it again, along with his sidekick, BlueDog Kent Conrad. At issue this time: Extending the Bush tax cuts to the wealthy.
Their position should be viewed as a direct assault on President Obama's promise to maintain tax cuts for the middle class while allowing those cuts to expire for the small, tiny percentage of wage earners who make more than $250,000.00 per year.
Here's how it works: If the Congress does nothing, all Bush tax cuts expire at the end of the year. But Congress could take the affirmative step of extending the cuts for anyone with income below the $250,000.00 level while expiring the cuts for anyone above.
Of course, this would take action, which would be subject to the filibuster.
In the video above, Conrad says the first priority should be an extension of the tax cuts on the middle class, but that the timing is wrong to increase taxes on the wealthy. While simultaneously arguing for the expiration of cuts on the wealthy while extending them, Conrad just about ties himself in knots trying to justify it.
Oh, and then of course he hits on spending as the "real target". The whole argument is ridiculous. As Jon Perr points out, any argument for extending the cuts on the rich is playing right into the hands of Republican Tax Cut Fairies.
Joe Lieberman leaps out from the wings in a dashing arabesque, pronouncing thus:
We got a long term debt problem as Bernanke said and we gotta begin to bring our government back into balance. Probably in the long term that gonna mean we’re gonna have some more people in higher income levels. But I think that right now, as we’re trying to come out of a bad economy, that would be a mistake. I don’t know if its two years, six months, whether it’s a year, to just hold over these tax cuts so there's more money in the hands of these businesses, small businesses which create most of the jobs, a lot of people are in those upper brackets running those small businesses let’s make sure the economy’s stronger before we start raising taxes again.
Would someone please put this chart in front of Joe and Kent and make them study it until they actually understand?
So there's no misunderstanding here, let me state it outright: Kent Conrad and Joe Lieberman are arguing for the further erosion and obliteration of the middle class in order to give the rich folks a tax break for a few more years.
Their twirly argument about it being "bad for the economy" to raise taxes in a recession presumes that the entire country is at the mercy of the elite 1% whose incomes exceed $250,000 per year. We're just the screaming rabble waiting for crumbs from the merciful elite, after all.
It also presumes the same false argument Republicans make; namely that tax cuts are not a form of spending and should not be viewed as such. OF COURSE they are.
Meanwhile, the rich are not spending and aren't signaling any particular desire to spend, so giving them some extra bucks won't stimulate the economy in any kind of good way anyway. Those of us who are still unemployed, or still earning a paycheck similar to the paycheck we earned 15 years or so ago, on the other hand, would welcome some extra money to pay the bills and maybe even buy a thing or two.
As long as I'm on a rant here, let's deal with the myth of the tax cuts being good for small business. Most small business owners do not earn in excess of $250,000 per year. See this 2004 study for proof of that (PDF). They tend to earn less and plow more money back into their business. Along with that, many small business owners filing as sole proprietors also have employment income. That small business talking point sounds great, but it's another myth like the one about tax cuts not contributing to the national debt.
This is not an issue of bolstering small business. This is one Democrat and one Independent-but-mostly-conservative-attention-whore trying to screw the middle class in favor of those who do not need, and will not use tax savings to bolster the economy.
The debate over these tax cuts shouldn't even be a debate. There is no fiscal reason to keep them. They are not a bargaining chip when one side isn't interested in bargains or compromise or even being a tiny bit reasonable. They would be nothing more than a gift to Republicans who would then take that and use it as a weapon for years to come against Democrats in election years.
After all, it's 2010 now. Extending the tax cuts to 2012 just guarantees a Republican President, who will promise America that he or she will make sure to reward the idle rich at the expense of the working poor.
UPDATED: Colbert nails it: