“Read my lips. No new taxes.” George Bush senior made that fatally memorable promise during his campaign for the White House. Later he saw that for the sake of the economy he would have to break it. When he did the right thing and went back on his word, he was vilified. It was a turning point in his presidency – his one-term presidency.
Not that Barack Obama needs reminding. He finds himself in exactly the same position. During his own run for the White House, he promised that taxes would not rise for families making less than $250,000 a year. If you are middle class, he said in his stump speech, “you will not see your taxes increased by a single dime. Not your income tax. Not your payroll tax. Not your capital gains tax. No tax”. Mr Obama knows the risk if he, too, breaks his word.
But he also knows he will have to. Higher taxes on the broad middle class would be needed even without Mr Obama’s long-term plans for healthcare reform, infrastructure spending and the rest. Factor those plans in, and the need is plain even on the administration’s own flattering arithmetic: its budget leaves an enormous long-term deficit even after the economy has returned to full employment. Make less rosy assumptions, and the hole is bigger still.
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