|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
White House officials and Congressional Republicans said Sunday they were closing in on a deal to temporarily continue the Bush-era tax cuts at all income levels, while bitterly frustrated Democratic Congressional leaders began exploring whether they would have the votes for such a package.
Senior Democrats on Sunday said that they were resigned to defeat in the highly charged tax debate, and they voiced dismay.
“We’re moving in that direction,” Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat said dejectedly when Bob Schieffer, host of “Face the Nation” on CBS, asked him if the 2001 and 2003 tax rates would be extended even for the wealthy. “And we’re only moving there against my judgment,” Mr. Durbin added.
In meetings with administration officials after the Senate votes, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and many other House and Senate Democrats voiced deep unhappiness at the prospect of extending all the tax cuts and also expressed their belief that the White House did not appear to be getting enough for such a big concession, officials said.
Worried that lawmakers will allow taxes to rise for the wealthiest Americans beginning next year, financial firms are discussing whether to move up their bonus payouts from next year to this month.
At stake is a portion of the hefty annual payouts that are a familiar part of the compensation culture on Wall Street, as well as a juicy target of popular anger. If Congress does not extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the highest income levels, a typical worker who earns a $1 million bonus would pay $40,000 to $50,000 more in taxes next year than this year, depending on base salary.
Goldman Sachs is one of the companies discussing how to time bonus season, according to three people who have been briefed on the discussions. Pay consultants who work with major Wall Street companies say that just about every other large bank has also considered such a move in recent weeks.
With tax politics in Washington unpredictable, bank executives have spent months sketching out several options for their bonus plans, including the possibility of an earlier payout. Lawmakers have been trading accusations across a partisan divide, but after this weekend, it appears likely that a compromise will extend the tax cuts for all income levels.
Even so, the banks’ discussions about bonus timing underscore how focused the industry is on protecting every dollar of pay.
Back in 2001, former President George W. Bush pulled a fast one. He wanted to enact an irresponsible tax cut, largely for the benefit of the wealthiest Americans. But there were Senate rules in place designed to prevent that kind of irresponsibility. So Mr. Bush evaded the rules by making the tax cut temporary, with the whole thing scheduled to expire on the last day of 2010.
The plan, of course, was to come back later and make the thing permanent, never mind the impact on the deficit. But that never happened. And so here we are, with 2010 almost over and nothing resolved.
Bear in mind that Republicans want to make those tax cuts permanent. They might agree to a two- or three-year extension — but only because they believe that this would set up the conditions for a permanent extension later. And they may well be right: if tax-cut blackmail works now, why shouldn’t it work again later?
America, however, cannot afford to make those cuts permanent. We’re talking about almost $4 trillion in lost revenue just over the next decade; over the next 75 years, the revenue loss would be more than three times the entire projected Social Security shortfall. So giving in to Republican demands would mean risking a major fiscal crisis — a crisis that could be resolved only by making savage cuts in federal spending.
And we’re not talking about government programs nobody cares about: the only way to cut spending enough to pay for the Bush tax cuts in the long run would be to dismantle large parts of Social Security and Medicare.
According to a new CBS News poll, however, Boehner is off-base in his claim that Americans "want us to stop all the looming tax hikes."
The poll finds that 53 percent of Americans want the Bush-era tax cuts extended only for households earning less than $250,000 per year. That roughly matches the proposal put forth by the White House, which wants to extend the cuts only for incomes less than $250,000 for families and $200,000 for individuals.
Just 26 percent of Americans say they support extending the cuts for all Americans, even those earning above the $250,000 level, which is the GOP proposal.