This week, the White House has been aggressively selling its tax deal with congressional Republicans, lobbying lawmakers, and blasting out press releases touting endorsements of the plan, even those from obscure mayors. Progressive activist and lawmakers have been upset by the deal to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy for two years in exchange for extending unemployment benefits, correctly arguing that the cuts for the rich will do little to stimulate the economy while adding billions to the deficit.
And in an interview on NPR this morning with Morning Edition host Steve Inkseep, President Obama reflected this point of view, agreeing that the tax cuts for the wealthy will not create “one single job”:
INSKEEP: Let me ask you about something that we heard from one of our listeners. … The question that we got was: “Please ask him how keeping the tax rate for the richest the same as it has been for a decade creates one single job.”
OBAMA: It doesn’t, which is why I was opposed to it — and I’m still opposed to it.
The issue here is not whether I think that the tax cuts for the wealthy are a good or smart thing to do. I’ve said repeatedly that I think they’re not a smart thing to do, particularly because we’ve got to borrow money, essentially, to pay for them.
The problem is, is that this is the single issue that the Republicans are willing to scotch the entire deal for. And in that circumstances — in that circumstance, we’ve got, basically, a very simple choice: Either I allow 2 million people who are currently getting unemployment insurance not to get it, either I allow the recovery that we’re on to be endangered or we make a compromise now.
Of course, Obama is correct. As the Center for American Progress’ Michael Linden and Michael Ettlinger noted, “The economy did not add a single new job” in the first three years after the Bush tax cuts were enacted. And as the Washington Post noted early this year, despite 9 years of Bush tax cuts, “There has been zero net job creation” over the past decade. “[O]n jobs, on growth, on middle-class income, on investment,” the Bush tax cuts “simply did not work,” Linden and Ettlinger conclude.
But Obama’s comments seems to be at odds with the message that the White House has been pushing in trying to sell its tax deal, touting that it will create millions of jobs. On Wednesday, White House economic advisor Larry Summers even warned that not passing the tax deal, “would materially increase the risk the economy would stall out and we would have a double dip [recession].” Cribbing a talking point from conservatives while appearing on MSNBC yesterday afternoon, White House economic advisor Austan Goolsbee explained, “I think the president’s judgment on why extend the Bush tax cuts was ordinary people need to have some certainty that when they wake up January 1st, we haven’t fumbled around and now their taxes are going to go up by several thousand dollars.”