This week, the president and the GOP announced a $900 billion deficit-financed package that includes, among other measures, an extension of tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.
After the past decade, we knew that Republicans were never serious about deficit spending. They added trillions to the deficit with two wars and the original Bush tax cuts. Republicans made the tax cuts expire at the end of 2010 because they tried to hide the real long-term costs -- which is the reason we're in this mess today.
In 2008, with a Democratic President and Congress, the Republicans suddenly found religion on the deficit. They used the boogeyman of the deficit to justify their plans to privatize Social Security, turn Medicare into a voucher program, and cut programs that help working families. We still hear the arguments from Republicans every day:
"Extend aid for unemployed workers? We can't, because of the deficit!"
"Ensure seniors have access to their doctors in Medicare? We can't, because of the deficit!"
"More money to stimulate the economy? We can't, because of the deficit!"
Now these same people who have been screaming about the deficit for the past two years are scrambling to add hundreds of billions of dollars to the deficit to give tax cuts to those making over $250,000 a year -- the very last people who need help in this economy.
If Republicans want tax cuts for the wealthy, we should demand that they explain how to pay for them right now. We know how they will be paid for in the long run -- once Republicans are in the majority and flip-flop back to caring about the deficit, they will insist on "deficit reduction" legislation that slashes important programs that help working families -- all to pay down the deficit that this proposal creates.
There are concrete measures we can take to improve the economy and help working families. But the Republican Party held these measures hostage. They stood in lockstep to block middle class tax cuts, extensions of unemployment insurance, or any other issue, until Congress extended deficit-funded tax cuts for the wealthy.
Some of the proposals in this compromise are positive. Unemployment benefits are protected for the next 13 months -- helping an estimated 400,000 Californians this month alone. The earned income tax credit and the child tax credits will be extended, helping millions of working families with children. These are important provisions that I want to see make it into law, but I cannot support them when they are coupled with outrageous deficit spending to benefit the rich.
Republicans made it clear that they would rather have ALL the Bush tax cuts expire than give up tax cuts for the wealthy. Democrats need to stand up and show that we have the same level of conviction that protecting the middle class is the right thing to do.