'The Obama Tax Cuts'

The power of messaging has its limits.

For some weeks, liberal writers have wondered why the president hadn't re-branded the Bush tax cuts as The Obama Tax Cuts. Indeed, when President Obama puts his signature on the next tax bill, it will be his law. When a president signs a bill, it's his. End of story.

But now that Democrats have semi-officially changed the name to "the Obama tax cuts for the middle class," I'm wondering what problem this was supposed to solve. The Obama tax cuts do not "turn the page" on the Bush tax cuts. Quite the opposite. The fact that they extend the Bush tax cuts for 98 percent of all taxpayers is a repeatedly quoted part of their appeal. The message, I guess, is: meet the new tax cuts, 98 percent the same as the old tax cuts.

When I hear about the Obama Tax Cuts, I start thinking about the actual Obama tax cuts: the $120 billion Making Work Pay program and the stimulus incentives, the HIRE Act exempting payroll taxes for new employees, the soon-to-be-law small business tax breaks. Those tax cuts are children born of the recession. The Bush tax cuts Obama tax cuts are troublesome foster children, half-grown and thrust onto us by awkward circumstance. The president might not want to own them, but his name is on them, and pretty soon his signature will be, too.

Presented by

Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Business

Just In