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Democratic ‘budget hawks’ champion expensive tax cuts for wealthy

By Sahil Kapur
Tuesday, September 21, 2010 8:04 EDT
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With Congress poised for a showdown over the Bush tax cuts, 24 members of the Blue Dog Coalition – a group of House Democrats who tout “fiscal responsibility” as their core belief – are championing the extension of $70-billion-per-year tax cuts for the highest income-earners.

The Democrats voiced their positions in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), both of whom – along with President Barack Obama – support allowing the high-end Bush tax cuts to expire as scheduled at the end of this year.

“We believe in times of economic recovery it makes good sense to maintain things as they are in the short term,” they wrote.

Thirty-one House Democrats signed the letter – their names were first reported by Christina Bellantoni of Talking Points Memo. All but seven are Blue Dogs, Raw Story has learned.

“Today, our underlying structural deficits represent the biggest threat to our economic security,” reads the front page of the 54-member coalition’s Web site, which describes its members as “independent voices for fiscal responsibility and accountability.”

The Web site also includes a ticker on the national debt, a section called “Budget Reform,” and a number of press releases about coalition members supporting fiscally responsible measures.

But this stance suggests that despite claiming to be fiscal hawks, deficit reduction for many Blue Dogs takes a back seat to providing tax breaks for rich Americans.

A spokeswoman for the Blue Dog Coalition did not respond to a request for comment.

There is strong agreement between Democrats and Republicans on continuing the tax cuts for individuals earning less than $200,000 per year and families earning less than $250,000 – those making more are set to have their taxes return to Bill Clinton-era levels unless Republicans and dissenting Democrats get their way.

Under Obama’s proposal, individual income above $200,000 would be taxed at 39.6 percent rather than 36 percent come January – even the wealthy would continue to pay the same lower rate for their earnings below that figure.

Sens. Kent Conrad (D-ND), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Evan Bayh (D-IN) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) have joined Republicans and the 31 House Democrats in opposing the expiration of the Bush tax cuts for top earners.

Republicans, who have relentlessly criticized Democrats as reckless spendthrifts, are threatening to block tax extensions for the middle class if high-end tax cuts aren’t also in the mix. They have floated temporary extensions of the top-bracket rates, but skeptics claim their real intention is to codify them permanently.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that extending the cuts on the top marginal tax rate would only affect 2 to 3 percent of small businesses and would have a minor overall impact in spurring economic growth, while dramatically increasing the deficit.

Below is the list of the 24 Blue Dogs, as compiled by Raw Story, who oppose letting the high-end Bush tax cuts expire.

Rep. Allen Boyd (FL)
Rep. Jim Costa (CA)
Rep. Jim Matheson (UT)
Rep. Glenn Nye (VA)
Rep. Lincoln Davis (TN)
Rep. Brad Ellsworth (IN)
Rep. Dan Boren (IN)
Rep. Mike McIntyre (NC)
Rep. John Barrow (GA)
Rep. Zack Space (OH)
Rep. Jason Altmire (PA)
Rep. Jim Cooper (TN)
Rep. Joe Donnelly (IN)
Rep. John Salazar (CO)
Rep. Frank Kratovil (MD)
Rep. Earl Pomeroy (ND)
Rep. Jim Marshall (GA)
Rep. Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin (SD)
Rep. Sanford Bishop (GA)
Rep. Mike Ross (AR)
Rep. Travis Childers (MS)
Rep. Walt Minnick (ID)
Rep. Harry Mitchell (AZ)

 
 
 
 
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