Source: Lisa Mascaro / Los Angeles Times
President George W. Bush’s signature tax breaks were never an easy sell. They passed Congress only after Vice President Dick Cheney’s tie-breaking vote in the Senate. Critics called them a giveaway to the rich. They cost the U.S. Treasury trillions.
A decade later, those tax cuts continue to loom large, becoming central to almost every budget debate in Washington. Whether to maintain the reduced tax rates for wealthy Americans was a question that deadlocked the congressional “super committee” in its search for a plan to cut the government’s long-term deficit. The expiration of the tax cuts at the end of next year will be a major issue in the 2012 campaign.
The battle over the Bush-era breaks will determine what happens to almost every part of the federal budget, including the spending cuts that are now mandated as a result of the “super committee’s” failure and the long-term outlook for Medicare and other entitlement programs.
“They’ve been hanging over the budget,” said Robert Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, a fiscal watchdog organization. “If you’re talking cuts to middle-class programs like Social Security and Medicare it becomes really difficult to argue for upper-income tax cuts…. We have to resolve that tension between entitlement cuts and tax cuts — clearly we’re not there.”
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