07/25/2011 11:17 am ET | Updated Sep 24, 2011

A "Revenue-less" Reid Plan Must Add One Strategic Tax Cut -- Extend the Sunset Date on the Bush Tax Cuts, Except the Top Bracket

The rapidity with which events are moving creates a tension for a writer -- await hearing the final details so one can come to a fully-informed judgment versus writing when key snippets of information are available to retain even a scintilla of hope of influencing an outcome prior to positions being locked.

For the debt-ceiling situation, I choose the latter. And, I reserve the "right" to oppose the entire scheme without contradicting myself once the details become known.

With those qualifiers, if reports are accurate, Democrats have caved, proposing a revenue-less $2.7T spending cut over 10 years without any additional revenues. This is the "Reid Plan", after Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).

If Democrats are going to cave entirely to the Republicans, they at least ought to accomplish a strategic goal: separate the Bush tax cuts for the top bracket from all the other brackets.

They can do this by including in the package an extension of the Bush tax cuts for all but the top bracket through December 31, 2015. If not included in the package, it will never pass, and the same all-or-nothing hostage taking will be available to Republicans in 2012.

But, if this extension were included in the debt-ceiling bill, then, when the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire next year, Republicans will not be able to hold the middle class hostage to get their paymasters another unneeded and wasteful tax break.

The Republicans will have a difficult time rejecting a revenue-less deficit reduction bill accompanied by the middle class tax cut extension. As clever as their spinmeisters are, it would be hard for them to sustain a credible argument because a tax cut is included.

Senate Democrats have already blown their best chance of putting Republicans on the spot -- passing the Senate Budget Committee Bill in the whole Senate, getting the president to endorse it, holding firm, and putting enormous pressure on the Republican House to agree. That would have been good for the country, and good for the Democrats.

Democrats, however, rarely pass up an opportunity to pass up an opportunity.

So, for the sake of salvaging something from all this, at least include the strategic maneuver of separating the sunset dates of the Bush tax cuts for the upper brackets from those of the lower brackets.

Then, they can run the 2012 campaign, in part, on whether the American people want further cuts in vital programs just so that the wealthy alone can get their tax breaks, in which case they would vote for Republicans, or whether they would have suffered enough already, and voting the Democrats into power in 2012 will get the wealthy to share in the sacrifice.

Republicans will no longer be able to lump everyone else together with the wealthy, and will be limited to their specious claims about hurting "job-creators" that is transparent by now to everyone.

Ultimately, then, over a decade, unless Republicans take both chambers and the White House in 2012, a "revenue-less" Reid bill may at least add $560B in revenues from not allowing the Bush Tax Cuts on the wealthy to expire in 2012.

It's something.