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Why are Democrats the only ones making concessions on the Bush tax cuts?

As the debate over the possible lapse or extension of the Bush tax cuts heats up in anticipation of Congress’ post-election return next week, you might have noticed that the goal posts of a possible compromise between Democrats and Republicans keep getting pushed back. A long time ago, many Democrats wanted to let all the Bush-era tax cuts lapse — they’d fought against the regressive cuts in 2001 and they’d be excited to see them go. More recently the consensus, put forth by the Obama White House, was to extend the cuts permanently for households making less than $250,000, while letting them lapse for those making more than that. Still more recently, the White House allowed that the continued economic downturn might justify extending the cuts for all income earners for two years, while making the cuts for most Americans permanent. What have Republicans offered during the same time frame? Nothing.

One good reason for this power imbalance, explains Adam Serwer, is that Republicans feel they’ll win whether or not negotiations break down:

Republicans, meanwhile, have been less accommodating, with some suggesting that they could simply hold off until January, when they will control the House and hold a stronger hand in the Senate. That would set the stage for a more powerful push to permanently extend all the cuts — the preferred GOP alternative.

“They might blame GOP obstructionism. But, you know, people are going to start missing a lot of money in their weekly paychecks in January. And there’s only going to be one person in the White House,” said a Republican House aide, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe party thinking.

In other words, if talks break down and taxes shoot up for everyone, Republicans are banking on Americans blaming the president. If, on the other hand, Republicans get their way and make the cuts permanent for all income earners — racking up nearly an additional trillion dollars of federal debt over the next decade in the process — they’ll be nothing short of ecstatic about that, too.

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