'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.

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This wildly inventive short film takes you on a whirling, spinning tour of the Big Apple

Join the Discussion

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

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

Video

The Faces of #BlackLivesMatter

Scenes from a recent protest in New York City

Video

Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life

The Supreme Court justice talks gender equality and marriage.

Video

The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.

More in Business

Just In