Obama Refuses to Get Tough on Taxes

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How committed is President Obama to letting the Bush tax cuts for the rich expire? At his press conference today, he gave a fuzzy answer, so Chuck Todd followed up and asked him if he’s absolutely committed to repealing the Bush tax cuts for the rich, no ifs, ands, or buts.

Obama declined to say yes. He said he wouldn’t accept revenue increases that come from dynamic scoring magic or from vague loophole closing, but he’s committed to compromise. The American people demand it. Blah blah blah.

This is not a very promising start. Getting Republicans to support an extension of the middle-class cuts without an extension of the high-end cuts was always going to be hard. Without a rock-solid commitment to veto any bill that maintains a 35 percent top marginal rate, it’s even harder. Unless I’m missing something, Obama just left the door wide open to some kind of kludgy compromise that keeps top-end rates at their Bush-era levels.

UPDATE: For what it’s worth, most of my readers and commenters seem to think I’m wrong about this. The rough consensus appears to be that Obama is indeed firm about letting the high-end tax cuts expire, but it’s not smart politics to draw lines in the sand in a major public forum. That could well be true. I might be reading too much into this. We’ll see.

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