First, I think the clearest description of reality vs.spin about the current fight about taxes is provided today by Stan Collender, so I'll recommend that.
Second...I don't understand the Democratic spin on this. Granted, it's important to always note that the spin doesn't matter very much, but still -- everyone puts a lot of effort into it, and as far as I can see, the Democrats are doing a spectacularly bad job of it.
If I were advising the Dems, I'd ask: Why do you ever talk about "extending the Bush tax cuts" at all? Joe Biden at least seems to have avoided the word "Bush" in his recent comments, but still talked about extending tax cuts. But for example, neither Paul Krugman nor John Podesta and Robert Greenstein had any hesitation. It seems to me that this is fairly nuts, just in terms of spin. Democrats and their supporters, I would think, shouldn't be talking about "expiring tax cuts." They should be talking about Republican tax increases, passed by Republicans in 2001 and 2003, and scheduled to go into effect soon. And then, instead of talking about "extending" GOP tax cuts, the Democrats should be talking about the Democratic tax cuts, or the Obama tax cuts, that they want to pass. You know, to replace the Republican-passed tax increase.
Would that spin be accurate? In my view: sure, accurate enough for spin. Republicans are poised to call what will happen if no one acts a massive tax increase (which it will be, if you look at it that way), so they certainly can't complain about the Dems calling it a tax hike. And surely what is in the books now is there because Republicans passed it, so that's not much of a stretch.
Now, I would expect Republicans to do what they can to reinforce the notion that all tax cuts are Republican in origin. I have no complaint about the spin they're putting on it. But why are Democrats going along?
Again, I don't really think this kind of stuff matters very much; it's more that it's just annoying to see such sloppy work. Obama tax cuts, to replace the Republican tax hike. Not: extension of the Bush tax cuts, except for the rich. Got it?