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Progressive Push Back to Eliminate Tax Cuts for Rich

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A Mighty Mobilization to Prevent a Democratic Cave-in is Underway

After the mid-term elections, the Obama Administration and some Democratic leaders signaled that they might compromise on extending the Bush-era tax breaks for wealthy households. Compromises include extending them for several years -- or raising the income threshold higher to $1 million.

Two years ago, President Obama took enormous lumps for his campaign pledge to let the Bush tax cuts for higher income households expire (Remember "Joe the Plumber"?). And the polls consistently indicate that the public supports letting the tax cuts for the rich expire, even after Tea Party anti-tax campaigning and a drum beat of misinformation alleging that tax hikes will decimate small business.

Right after the election, the Obama Administration signaled that they would meet with GOP leaders on November 18th to capitulate. Fortunately, the meeting was postponed until November 30th. In the meantime, progressives have mobilized with unusual force and clarity.

Americans For Responsible Taxes is coordinating a national mobilization of organizations pressing to extend the middle class tax cut and let the income tax cuts for the wealthy expire.

Net roots groups such as Moveon.org and Progressive Change Congressional Committee, have gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures to petitions urging the President not to cave in. The Other 98 percent put up a clever graphic campaign illustration, "The $700 Billion Question," juxtaposing choices such as "Fix every substandard bridge in America," vs. "Fix America's Gold-plated foot rests." There is a plan to publicly display these petitions in Lafayette Park after Thanksgiving.

The small business community has pushed back against claims that letting the tax cuts expire would hurt small business. Coalitions of businesses, including Business for Shared Prosperity and Main Street Alliance have made the business case for letting the tax cuts expire. Business for Shared Prosperity issued a report demonstrating how few small enterprises would pay the tax increase. Thoughtful accountants like Brian Setzler have pointed out in op-eds that small businesses make hiring and business reinvestment decisions before their income is taxed.

Even some of those who would pay the higher taxes are stepping up to. Over 415 high income individuals, those who would pay the higher taxes, have signed a "Let Our Tax Cuts Go" petition at Wealth for the Common Good. And a new effort, a group of 45 "Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength" have issued a call to President Obama to let their tax cuts expire.

The lesson for progressive activists is we can't depend on President Obama to do the right thing without substantial pressure. He still may compromise, but at least it won't because progressives didn't fight for the right thing. We knew that already, didn't we?