If you follow the Twitters, the bulk of the Republican pushback to President Obama’s deficit plan has centered on a quote Obama gave in August 2009. “The last thing you want to do is to raise taxes in the middle of a recession,” he said, “because that would just...take more demand out of the economy and put businesses in a further hole.” As the National Review’s Jim Geraghty put it, “The most effective critic of Obama’s 2011 tax hike proposal is the Barack Obama from 2009.”
Obama was right in 2009: You don’t want to raise taxes in the middle of a recession! Nor do you want to cut spending. But we’re not in a recession right now. We’re in a weak recovery. And neither the tax increases nor the spending cuts are scheduled to take place right now. As the plan (pdf) says, “these proposals would generally become effective on January 1, 2013.”
So the question is whether you think the economy will be in recession in 2013. In the event that it is, I’m sure the Obama administration would agree that 2013 isn’t a very good time to raise taxes, and austerity should wait until the economy strengthens. Either way, it’s Obama’s 2013 tax hike proposal.
Right now, the Obama administration wants to cut taxes and increase spending on jobs programs. That’s what that whole American Jobs Act thing is about. So there’s nothing inconsistent in the Obama administration’s position — unless, that is, their plan passes, the economy falls into recession in 2013, and they don’t change course.
As for the Republicans who are happily latching onto Obama’s admonition that now is not the time to “take more demand out of the economy” but are simultaneously arguing for sharp spending cuts and resisting temporary tax cuts, well, they’ve got a bit more ‘splaining to do.