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Tax VOX

Obama should back his commission, not his GOP sweetheart deal

President Obama can change call the GOP's bluff, reduce the deficit, and act like a statesman. Here's how – and why.

By Guest blogger / December 13, 2010

President Obama speaks at a White House news conference in Washington on Dec. 7. Should the President reconsider his new plan and shift his support to the proposal from his deficit commission leaders?

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

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If ever President Obama needed a reason to back the recommendations of his fiscal commission, the tax deal he’s just cut with congressional Republicans should be it. Not only will this massive tax bill add hundreds of billions of dollars to the deficit, but it is turning into a political catastrophe for the White House. Obama needs to get on top of the fiscal debate, and the way to do it is to send the commission blueprint (perhaps refined with the best of other deficit and tax reform plans) to Capitol Hill for an up-or-down vote. Here are five reasons why:

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He can change the narrative of his presidency: Today, the story is that he is weak, a failure, and a massive disappointment both to his base and to those ‘hope and change” independents who flocked to him two years ago. But it’s hard to say that a president who cuts the Gordian knot of deficits even as he honchos the biggest tax reform in 25 years is a failed wimp.

He can call the GOP’s budget bluff: Republicans killed Democrats in November by selling voters on a wildly inconsistent platform of reducing taxes, opposing cuts in Medicare, and balancing the budget. This is absurd, but most voters didn’t know it. By demanding that GOP lawmakers vote on the fiscal panel’s plan—which trims deficits by both raising taxes and reducing future Medicare spending—Obama would issue a frontal challenge to the Republicans’ budget platform. They’d be forced to either oppose the only deficit reduction plan on the table or finally offer one of their own, thus ending their rhetorical free ride—and perhaps even opening the door to a serious deal. No matter how Republicans play it, Obama will have a chance to get back on offense on fiscal issues.


He can end the debate over the Bush-era tax cuts: Obama and the Democrats can’t escape the vortex of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. Against all odds, they have lost the debate over whether to extend tax cuts for three percent of households at a cost of $700 billion over 10 years—at a time when they still control both houses of Congress. How do you think they’ll do next time this comes up, most likely on the cusp of the 2012 presidential election? The Dems only way out of this mess: Change the subject and start talking about tax reform.