An Effective Presentation of the Dems' Tax-Cut Case

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By John Kerry, no less. On Meet the Press today. (Clip may start with an embedded ad):


Note to Administration officials: make these points, and just keep making them. The Administration is offering a plan with tax cuts for everybody, and the Republicans are saying no -- to that, and to extended unemployment benefits during a time of record joblessness -- unless there is a hugely expensive extra tax cut for the very people who are least likely to spend the extra money they get.

Repetition and consistency of message have become great strategic strengths of the right. On Fox, from Rush, from the Republican leadership, you hear the same themes day after day. They allow their audience to "frame" each day's items in the news. "Oh, I see, the Democrats are supporting 'job-killing tax hikes' once again." Democrats, by contrast, can seem embarrassed and and afraid of seeming "unoriginal" if think they are making points that are "obvious," or that they've already made. But this is one to hammer home until it's absolutely clear:

"You care about unemployment? We're committed to extending benefits that can help families stay above water, hold onto their houses if possible, and have at least some spending power as they keep looking for work. You need a tax break in a recession? We agree -- we want to cut taxes for every household in the country. And that's why we're in a fight with the Republican minority that is determined to stop tax relief for you, and deny help to families who've lost jobs, unless we give huge extra tax cuts for the people who've already enjoyed the greatest tax-cut benefits and are least likely to spend that money to keep the economy strong. We're saying: tax cuts for everybody on income up to $250,000 -- and for money above that, to control the deficit, let's go back to the rates of the 1990s, when the economy boomed. They're saying: no tax cuts for anybody, unless there's a special bonus for people at the very top.

We're all for compromise -- but not with bad, destructive, budget-busting ideas. That's why we're drawing the line here."

I mention this both because I think Kerry's argument is right on the merits, and because it's worth recognizing political arguments presented competently.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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