'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.

Things Not to Say to a Pregnant Woman

You don't have to tell her how big she is. You don't need to touch her belly.

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

Things Not to Say to a Pregnant Woman

You don't have to tell her how big she is. You don't need to touch her belly.

Video

Maine's Underground Street Art

"Graffiti is the farthest thing from anarchy."

Video

The Joy of Running in a Beautiful Place

A love letter to California's Marin Headlands

Video

'I Didn't Even Know What I Was Going Through'

A 17-year-old describes his struggles with depression.

Video

Google Street View, Transformed Into a Tiny Planet

A 360-degree tour of our world, made entirely from Google's panoramas

Video

The Farmer Who Won't Quit

A filmmaker returns to his hometown to profile the patriarch of a family farm

Video

Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."

Video

Carrot: A Pitch-Perfect Satire of Tech

"It's not just a vegetable. It's what a vegetable should be."

More in Business

Just In