THE BLOG
02/05/2009 01:06 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Obama's Tax Cuts Larger Than Bush's. Where's the GOP Support?

Here's a curious fact: President Obama's and the Democratic Congress' tax cuts in their first three weeks are larger than Bush's combined tax cuts in his first three years.

Bush vs. Obama Tax Cuts
Obama: $235 billion in 2009
Bush: $188.1 billion
(combined 2001, 2002, and 2003 tax cuts)
source: nonpartisan Tax Foundation*

Commentator Mort Kondracke even admitted this on Fox News just a few days ago, "This tax cut that's in this bill, however, is bigger than George W. Bush's tax cut was in 2001 and 2003."

If you listen to the news (which I'm sure you do) and the Republican mouthpieces (which I'm sure you try not to), then why do we keep hearing that Obama has a massive spending program but hear very little about the Democratic tax cuts for the middle class and working families?

If you know that Republicans believe tax cuts are the solution to everything -- good times and bad times, happy and sad times -- then why aren't they lining up behind this record tax relief offered by a new president and the Democratic congressional leadership?

There are simple answers for these questions ... they're playing politics, forgetting that they & Bush were just in charge of the cookie jar, and upset that the tax cuts aren't for their friends.

First, Republicans have no interest in veering from their historic line that Democrats want to spend money and raise taxes. It's in their interest to encourage false stereotypes despite the fact that the last White House Democrat did the very opposite of what W and the Republicans did -- leaving a budget surplus and actually cutting the size of the federal government. So why should Republicans admit that Obama's are bigger than Bush's?

Second, Republicans claim that the Democratic stimulus package,including the tax cuts, is not "pro-growth" enough. But their allies at the conservative Cato Insitute made it pretty clear that Bush's original tax package and subsequent Republican economic policies "were not growth-oriented" and amounted to "a pork-barrel pigout." Cato added that "Bush has been the most profligate president in decades. In his first five years, 2001 to 2006, federal spending increased 45 percent and deficits have soared ... For its part, the Republican leadership in Congress has gone along with, and often encouraged, the spending feast." Unclean hands, indeed.

Third, Republicans' real objection is not that Obama cuts taxes, but that the President cuts them for the wrong people. The Democrats' new tax cuts are targeted at middle class and working families, and, among other reasons, those folks did not vote for the Republicans in 2008. Bush's tax cuts disproportionately favored the wealthiest Americans and big corporations (as did their record-busting deficit spending).

The GOP's most visible leader at the moment, Rush Limbaugh, could not have stated more clearly this conservative view of who deserves tax cuts in his recent Wall Street Journal op-ed. He wants to give massive cuts ($414 billion or 46% of the overall stimulus bill as determined by McCain's share of the popular vote) to corporations and stockholders through suspending capital gains tax for a year. But he is not alone. Congressional Republicans want every tax cut but the one the Obama White House has proposed. Meanwhile, the proposed tax cuts primarily benefit the middle class and those working poor who pay Medicare and Social Security taxes in every paycheck but don't make enough to pay income taxes. It looks like the GOP believes all taxes are equally awful but some are more equal than others. If more consumer spending is part of the short-term answer to our nation's problems (did Republicans forget that George W Bush tell us not to worry and go shopping after 9/11?), then give it to those who will spend it now.

Third, the Democrats have not done a good job of pressing the tax cuts issue, or they have and the media has not covered it because they also might buy into the GOP mantra that a Democrat never saw a tax cut she liked.

As conservative Fred Barnes made it clear on the same Fox News show noted above, "If Obama gives them a few tax cuts, they will vote for it. It's easy for Obama." Well, it hasn't been easy. Misstatements of fact and the usual Republican gamesmanship and biases produced not one single vote in the House and will produce few, if any, in the Senate.

So, Republican Party, Obama has given you tax cuts -- lots of them, even more than your beloved Bush. They just don't benefit your political strategy and aren't for the people you took care of during the past eight years.

Hey, media and congressional GOP! The truth, please. Or how about just the whole picture?

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* To be even more clear, the current White House chief economist Peter Orszag produced a 2004 study that said the combined Bush tax cuts were worth $276 billion in 2004 dollars. Even by this calculation, Obama's $235 billion tax cuts compete with Bush's.