Obama Must Break His Promise

My new column for the FT argues that Obama will have to break his promise on taxes. Once the recovery is secure, they will need to rise for all Americans, not just the rich. He should say so now. But until the recovery is secure, it would be best if nobody's taxes went up.

Democrats want to make most of the [Bush] tax cuts permanent. Republicans want to make all of them permanent. Fiscally speaking, the two sides are not as far apart as they pretend: they are almost equally wrong. Politically speaking, they cannot converge...

For the moment, Democrats see political advantage in demanding a sacrifice of the rich, and in accusing Republicans of holding tax cuts for most Americans hostage to favours for the wealthy. Republicans see advantage in opposing higher taxes, period. Thus, with economic uncertainty universally acknowledged as a brake on growth and employment, Americans have not the faintest idea what will happen to their taxes next year. Gridlock that causes everybody's taxes to rise sharply, which nobody wants and which makes no economic sense, is entirely possible.