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Barack Obama: Tax Cutter?

People are frightened about the future, about their own personal future. Extending the payroll tax holiday only puts about $1,500 in the pockets of an average family of four but, to people who fear their job might disappear and who haven’t seen a raise in some time, that’s a tangible if not quite substantial addition to their annual income. Meanwhile Congress is at loggerheads over what to do, mired in a seemingly unending debate over how to pay for it.

The Democrats want to raise taxes on the wealthy to fill the gap a year-long extension of the holiday would create. The Republicans want to freeze the pay of federal workers and are pushing for the sale of government assets and measures they are calling “job creators” to make up the difference. The problem is that the GOP doesn’t seem to understand that, by acceding to the extension in the first place, they’ve lost the battle. There are those brave few like Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk who say the whole business should be scrapped, but, for the most part, the Republicans fear being on the wrong side of the issue politically. As such, Obama has them over a barrel.

It’s unlikely the measure has the votes to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate if it includes a tax increase -- as Majority Leader Harry Reid and his cohorts have been demanding. There are enough Democrats in vulnerable seats that a vote for a tax increase would be damaging come election time. But the president is not negotiating with the Democrats in the Senate or advising them on ways to tweak their proposal. No, Obama is only playing off the GOP plan in the House, which doesn’t include tax increases but does arguably have some spending restraint -- and he’s doing it in a way that plays into the hands of his campaign handlers who want to split the country by income levels in the next election.