The Bush Tax Cuts and National Priorities

Change in average household income, by quintile

This might seem like a small point, but I have an issue with the tone of this otherwise interesting CAP piece by Michael Linden and Heather Boushely, which seems to suggest that Washington cares more about millionaires because the Bush tax cut debate is about millionaires:

"Our priorities are indeed skewed when the dominant argument over economic policy pertains to $100,000 tax cuts for millionaires while our middle class is barely treading water."

Let's zoom out for a second. Everybody in Congress agrees that the middle class should keep its tax cuts. So there's no need have an argument about it. Some people think we should raise taxes on the top two percent, and others think we should keep taxes low. So we're having an argument about it.

That doesn't mean that a tax cut for millionaires is our priority. Instead, it means that tax cuts for millionaires conflict with millions of Americans' priorities and that's why we're discussing it.

Why juxtapose the plight of the middle class with the tax cuts for the rich? I doubt the authors are making the point that tax cuts for the rich hurt middle-income salaries. Perhaps they're suggesting that we use the money we'd otherwise leave to the top percentiles to raise income. They don't mention how we'd do that, but I'd be interested in looking at expanding the Army Corps of Engineers or using the money to extend UI.

Forty-seven percent of the country pays negative federal income taxes (that means they receive more money from the IRS than they pay) and 10 percent of the country pays negative federal income AND payroll taxes. Holding down tax rates on the lower 98 percent is such a national priority, it's accepted without rebuttal. Some day soon, however, we'll have to have that argument, too.