At his White House press conference this morning, the president was asked about GDP figures due to be released and whether he’s concerned that they’ll point to an official recession. After responding with some talk about drilling ANWR, Bush added:
“[I]f you want to send a good signal during these uncertain times, is make the tax cuts permanent, is to let people — send the signal that people are going to be able to keep their money. And I think that will help the psychology of the country.”
He repeated the line a few minutes later:
“I would hope that those who worry about recession, slowdown, whatever you want to call it, make the tax cuts permanent as a way of helping to address this issue — because if you’re somebody out there trying to plan your future and you’re worried about the future and you think your taxes are going to go up, it’s going to cause different behavioral patterns.”
I have no idea what Bush is talking about. Or, more likely, Bush has no idea what he's talking about.
To hear Bush tell it, the economic anxiety Americans feel right now is somehow related to tax cuts that expire in 2011 — tax cuts that primarily don’t help the middle class or low-income families anyway.
In all seriousness, how many people who are worried about their families’ finances right now are going to say, “I’ve been really worried, but now that I know my tax rate will remain the same in 2011 as it is 2010, I’m feeling better again”? That, in essence, is what the president argued with a straight face this morning. The answer for economic angst now is maintenance of existing tax cuts three years from now.
Ben at TP recently offered a competing explanation for economic anxiety.
[M]aybe American negative attitudes toward the economy stem from the housing and credit crises, job losses, rising unemployment, a volatile stock market, high gas prices, high family debt, flat wages, increasing budget deficits, a weak dollar, and rising health care costs — not to mention the effects of the $12 billion per month war in Iraq that is being bankrolled largely on borrowed funds.
Could that have more to do with explaining why Americans are so upset with the economy? Nah. It must have something to do with expectations for tax rates in 2011. After all, as Bush insisted this morning, those three-years-away rates “cause different behavioral patterns.”
That makes a lot more sense. Thank goodness the president and his congressional allies are so in touch with concerns and fears facing American families.