Democrats Folding on Bush Tax Cuts, Again?

Democrats said just last week that they'd focus their lame duck legislative efforts on renewing the Bush tax cuts for the middle class only. So it's likely that they'll soon cave entirely to Republi— oh look, they already did.

The Republican plan for the Bush tax cuts — set to expire on January 1, 2011 — has been to extend all of the Bush income tax cuts, including those for the top two income brackets, permanently. The Democratic (or at least non-conservative Democrat) plan has been to extend all rates permanently except those for the top two income brackets. The latter — which is still pretty damn generous! — would cost $700 billion less than the Republican plan over the next ten years. Democrats could offer their bill only for a vote before the current rates expire, while they still have their large majorities, and let the Senate Republicans block it day after day until it starts making them look bad and they're forced accept it.

But that strategy would come with some terrible risks! Because Republicans probably wouldn't give a shit about all the cuts expiring, really. They could blame Obama for "the largest tax increase in history" and call him out for breaking his oft-repeated campaign promise not to raise taxes (or allow tax cuts to expire) on families earning $250,000 or less. This would not help Barack Obama's reelection chances.

It would've been easier for Democrats to force a Republican cave-in in the run-up to the election, because who'd want to repeatedly block a middle-class tax cut under that sort of pressure? But they didn't do it.

So here we are now, with White House political adviser David Axelrod appearing to break the news in a damn Huffington Post interview:

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama's top adviser suggested to The Huffington Post late Wednesday that the administration is ready to accept an across-the-board, temporary continuation of steep Bush-era tax cuts, including those for the wealthiest taxpayers.

That appears to be the only way, said David Axelrod, that middle-class taxpayers can keep their tax cuts, given the legislative and political realities facing Obama in the aftermath of last week's electoral defeat.

"We have to deal with the world as we find it," Axelrod said during an unusually candid and reflective 90-minute interview in his office, steps away from the Oval Office. "The world of what it takes to get this done."

"There are concerns," he added, that Congress will continue to kick the can down the road in the future by passing temporary extensions for the wealthy time and time again. "But I don't want to trade away security for the middle class in order to make that point."

Axelrod and White House communications director Bill Burton later followed up that this was in no way, shape or form a change in strategy from the White House. Okay then! In that case, it's just an incredibly large motherfucking trial balloon emblazoned with all of the cards you're holding, under which "PSST YOU WILL PROBABLY WIN THIS BATTLE — HERE'S HOW" is written, to be presented as a gift to Senate Republicans.

"We have to deal with the world as we find it." Jesus Christ.

This doesn't even get into the other Bush tax cuts on capital gains, dividends, estates, and whatever else. Republicans will most likely want all of these to be zero, permanently. Oh well! You have to deal with the world as you find it. Just don't spend all fall exciting your base about how you'll get the 60 Senate votes to pass this sucker when in fact you have no strategy, at all, to get 60 Senate votes. Not that this will matter anymore in a couple of months, when all the new dingbats come in.

[Image via AP]