Thursday, August 26, 2010

Annals of Spin: Where's the GOP Tax Hike?

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?


  1. I think the idea of "tax cuts" as a Republican idea that you mentioned is just too entrenched, and to try and fight it with spin would likely do more harm than good

  2. I don't agree that it doesn't matter -- I think it matters very much. We've seen how such narratives/framing gets picked up by the media and they run with it and things become part of the "conventional wisdoem" -- like how "everyone knows" that Democrats are supposedly weak on national defense but Republicans are weak on social welfare.

  3. Excellent idea. I will spread this around.

    "In 2001 and 2003, they passed bills by reconciliation (the process they now decry) which required taxes to go up this year.

    Don't call it "bush tax cuts" --- if the GOP wants to call it a tax increase, remember who wrote it: the GOP. "

  4. Sorry, not buying it. Referring to Bush's 10-year tax cuts as "republican tax hikes" would effectively endorse those cuts, since you would then be targeting the expiration date as the Original Republican Sin of this legislation. This frame would make perfect sense if Democrats were attempting to renew Bush's tax cut package over Republican opposition. But the shoe is on the other foot. It is Democrats who want to cancel at least part of the tax cuts. You can't credibly attack the Republican tax hikes and then fight to enact them.


  6. I totally disagree with TomH. Democrats should fight Republican tax hikes while simultaneously unveiling new Democratic tax cuts.

    It doesn't take much imagination to design a campaign that takes advantage of the "republican tax hikes" framing:

    "10 years ago, Bush & Congressional Republicans designed a bad tax plan which gave away billions to Wall St. investors and failed to create enough jobs. Now the Bush Tax plan is scheduled to raise taxes on millions of American families and small businesses during a crippling Republican Recession. Tell your congressman this is the last thing we need, and vote for the Democratic Tax Cuts for a Strong Clean Energy Economy etc etc."


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