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Economist Mom

Bush-Obama tax cuts: At least my dog didn't die this weekend

The first time these tax cuts passed, it was an even sadder weekend.

By Guest blogger / December 22, 2010

President Obama prepares to sign into law the bill extending the Bush-era tax cuts in Washington, Dec. 17. The bill extended the tax cuts for all Americans – including the top two percent – and extended unemployment benefits, among other agreements he brokered with Republicans. Does it count as a 'compromise' bill if everybody got what they wanted?

Jim Young / Reuters

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So the first time the Bush tax cuts were signed into law (by President George W. Bush), my beloved golden retriever “Sunny” (short for “Sunshine”) unexpectedly and very suddenly died in my backyard under her favorite tree. This was on a rainy Saturday over Memorial Day weekend, 2001–making it a miserable, tragic weekend all around.

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I’m relieved to report that at least my dog didn’t die this time around, now that President Obama has signed them into law and turned them into the “Obama tax cuts.”

From the signing ceremony (video above), there’s a lot of happy talk about “bipartisanship” and “compromise.” But it’s easy to “compromise” when you don’t have to give up anything–when instead you just have to stop resisting what the other side wants. As Vice President Biden explains (emphasis added):

The famed 18th century British statesman, Edmund Burke, once said, “All government, indeed every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue, and every prudent act, is founded on compromise and barter.” Today, we have a crystal clear example of what he meant.

This package — this package is a result of leaders from both sides coming together to act on behalf of the American people at a time they need it most…

It means accepting some things we don’t like in order to get the job done for Americans as needs to be done.

But that’s not exactly the “barter”–or “give and take”–kind of “compromise.” It’s the easier “take and take” kind that policymakers have mastered over the past decade that has resulted in such fiscally irresponsible policymaking, where seemingly-free deficit financing becomes the easiest “bipartisan” way out of gridlock. As I’ve said before, it’s not mutual sacrifice; it’s mutual grabbing.

The President seems to know this was the easy part–”compromising” on a tax cut package that gave him all the deficit-financed tax cuts he wanted in exchange for just accepting a few more the other side wanted, too. He said (emphasis added):

[W]e’ve got to make some difficult choices ahead when it comes to tackling the deficit. In some ways, this [tax cut deal/"compromise"] was easier than some of the tougher choices we’re going to have to make next year.

Yes, a LOT easier. We can do this kind of policy making with our eyes closed.

But like I said (optimist that I am), at least my dog didn’t die.

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