White House at odds with former budget chief over tax cuts

White House budget director Peter Orszag has decided to leave the Obama administration, likely in the next few weeks, a Democrat familiar with his plans said Monday night. His departure would make him the first member of President Obama's Cabinet to leave the White House.
By Karen Tumulty
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 7, 2010; 8:35 PM

The Obama White House has never had much regard for the unsolicited advice it gets from the Washington pundit class.

But on Tuesday it pushed back against one whose carping from the peanut gallery was a tad awkward - given that only six weeks ago this observer had been the administration's own budget director.

Recently departed Office of Management and Budget director Peter Orszag made his debut as a New York Times contributor with a column that argued for a two-year extension of all the Bush-era tax cuts, which are scheduled to expire at the end of the year.

That position puts him at odds with the often-stated position of his former boss, the president of the United States.

"The president's viewpoint is that we cannot afford to extend the tax cuts for those making more than $250,000 a year," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters.

In his column, Orszag warned that raising taxes now would dampen consumer spending, and with it, demand that is needed to get the nation's industries producing again at full tilt.

"The best approach is a compromise: extend the tax cuts for two years and then end them altogether," Orszag wrote.

"Ideally only the middle-class tax cuts would be continued for now," he added. "Getting a deal in Congress, though, may require keeping the high-income tax cuts, too. And that would still be worth it."

Gibbs said the White House had not seen the column before it was published.

He also said he had never heard Orszag argue in private White House meetings for a temporary extension of the tax cuts for wealthier Americans.

So why does Orszag feel that way now?

The current Obama White House press secretary suggested that the former Obama White House budget chief might have been wearing "a congressional relations hat on in terms of what political price Congress might have to go through to extend different things."

But Gibbs added: "That's not the viewpoint that the president holds."

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