Republicans are confidently predicting that they will be able to use Obama’s proposal to extend the tax cuts for those under $250,000 as a weapon against Dems in down-ticket races. Predictably, a few Democrats seem to have decided that Republicans are right, and are distancing themselves from the plan.
But two progressive Senators I spoke to today made strong cases that this plan is a political winner for Dems — and offered ways Dems can talk about the issue that could counter GOP talking points.
Sherrod Brown, who is in a competitive race in Ohio, flatly stated that the President’s proposal is right on the substance and on the politics.
“This is simply restoring the tax levels from years ago on two percent of taxpayers," Brown told me. “I don’t know why some Democrats are queasy. Possibly they think it’s better messaging if the cutoff is $1 million. Elected officials at this level know a lot of people who make $300,000. We generally don’t spend enough time with people who make $30,000.”
“But I think the president is right here,” Brown continued. “The American public thinks that if you make a quarter million dollars, you’re doing really well. There’s no reason we shouldn’t be shouting this from the rooftops.”
“I think independents will see this exactly as the president does — that people making that much can afford to pay a little more,” Brown said.
Senator Jeff Merkley, meanwhile, stressed that Obama’s proposal would keep the tax rates low on income up to $250,000, even for those who make more than that.
“We shouldn’t shy away from this — it’s good policy and good politics as well,” Merkley said. “The point that should be recognized is that this plan essentially treats everyone equally. Those who earn more than $250,000 will still get the cut on the first quarter million they make. The only question in this argument is whether the top two percent are going to get a bonus tax break at the expense of the treasury. And the answer is No.”
“The middle class has been crunched badly — we should extend the support and assistance for them,” Merkley continued. “This is the right balance to strike. We should push forward with this boldly.”
One other point. In declining to back extending just the middle class cuts, Republicans are opposing a plan that would keep low rates on all income up to $250,000, even that enjoyed by the “job creators” and “small business owners” who make more than that. All because so doing would cost Republicans their leverage over the rate paid just on income over that amount. This should not be a difficult argument for Dems to win.
UPDATE: The DSCC is going on offense on taxes in some races; here’s the new DSCC ad hitting GOP Rep. Rick Berg, who is being challenged by Dem Heidi Heitkamp for Senate in North Dakota, for favoring tax breaks for millionaires.