The Washington Post editorial board on Wednesday night slammed House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for pushing to permanently extend "middle class" tax cuts for people earning up to $1 million, warning that it makes Democrats look "almost as irresponsible" as Republicans defending tax cuts for the rich.
In an editorial titled "Nancy Pelosi's risky pander on taxes," the Post took issue with a letter Pelosi sent to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Wednesday urging him to schedule a vote to extend the "middle class" Bush-era tax cuts for people who make below $1 million annually. In contrast, President Barack Obama supports extending tax cuts for people who earn less than $250,000 per year, while Republicans simply want to extend all of the cuts, even for millionaires. The cuts are set to expire at the end of the year.
"Pelosi has an interesting definition of what constitutes the middle class. She believes it includes people earning anything less than $1 million a year — at least when it comes to tax cuts," reads the editorial.
By raising the middle class threshold from $250,000 to $1 million, about 43 percent of federal revenue will be lost in 2013, the editorial continues, and that is likely to be the case for subsequent years. An unintended effect of Pelosi's proposal is that those earning more than $1 million would be among its biggest beneficiaries, as they would enjoy the benefit of paying lower marginal rates on their first $1 million of income.
"Ms. Pelosi and others who have taken this position ... are contemplating spending several hundred billion dollars over the coming decade to help the wealthiest Americans. That is several hundred billion dollars in a time of scarce resources and mounting debt -- money that could be used, as Ms. Pelosi well knows, for worthier purposes," the editorial reads.
The Post notes it has repeatedly trashed Republicans for being "irresponsible" by trying to extend all of the "recklessly unaffordable" Bush-era tax cuts. Given the fragility of the economy, the best path forward would be extending cuts for those below the $250,000 threshold while still raising "badly needed revenue" by letting the higher cuts expire, the editorial reads.
"The looming expiration of the Bush tax cuts at the end of 2012 and the intransigence of the Republican anti-tax position does not come close to justifying Ms. Pelosi's move to make even more of the Bush tax cuts permanent," it says. "Do Democrats really want their new slogan to be: 'Almost as irresponsible as the Republicans?'"
A Democratic aide countered that the point of pushing to raise the threshold to $1 million is to show that Republicans still won't support it since they want everyone else -- including millionaires and billionaires -- to get their tax cuts too.
"If Republicans refuse to move on this proposal, it is clear they are standing with millionaires and endangering the economic security of the middle class," said the aide.
The aide noted that the Washington Post editorial board supported the last full extension of the Bush-era tax cuts. The aide also pointed out that the GOP-led House currently lacks the 218 votes necessary to extend the tax cuts at the $250,000 cut-off.
"What Pelosi is proposing is a reasonable path forward given this situation," said the aide.
A White House spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.