Save the Bush Tax Cuts

Do you want to know what a win-win is in politics? It’s when good policy and good politics meet up. The Bush tax rate cuts, scheduled to lapse in January, are a prime example of an excellent meet-up for GOP candidates. Do Republicans have the smarts to campaign for the extension of the Bush tax rates? Or do the frequently tone-deaf and lily-livered Republicans not get how powerful it is to stump for an extension, especially with a teetering economy? Let’s help stiffen GOP spines with reasons to push tax rate cut extensions.

But let’s first dispel a fear. An outgrowth of that fear is “W” aversion. And, no, that’s not just some Sesame Street-induced aversion to the letter “W,” but an aversion to the man the letter represents. Associating George W. Bush’s name with anything -- from bonbons to tax cuts -- makes gullible Republicans believe it is a certain kiss-of-death with independent voters and persuadable Democrats (a rare breed these days, for sure).

Because the Bush brand is a bit tarnished, Republicans are particularly afraid to invoke the Bush name since Democrats will use it to batter them silly -- even over the always popular issue of tax cuts.

Yet, reality, like time, marches on. The conventional wisdom -- as is often the case -- lags behind changing perceptions. In light of Barack Obama’s abysmal performance, Mr. Bush is experiencing something of a revival in voters’ minds. A poll back in April indicates that Mr. Bush might just give America’s first adolescent president a run for his money in an election. Chances are, given the ensuing Gulf fiasco, among other fiascoes, a Bush-Obama horse race today might even tilt decidedly in W’s favor.

Whatever voters think of Mr. Bush, they think much more of their bank accounts and checkbook balances. Taxpayers are never, ever against keeping more of their hard-earned cash. And with the economy experiencing a tepid recovery, with job reports showing no real growth in private sector employment, and with Greece as the canary in the coal mine twittering about an impending debt and deficit crisis here at home, voters aren’t going to pooh-pooh more money in their pockets.

But skittish Republicans fear two other assaults from Democrats related to making a push for renewing the Bush tax cuts. First, Democratic demagogues will blast Republicans for wanting to keep tax rates that favor the rich. But as any semi-savvy American has learned, the Democrats’ definition of who’s rich has become pretty elastic. Vampirish Democrats, always on the prowl for more dough, claim that income earners who benefit from the lower tax rates are Thurston Howell III and Lovey rich.  No small point: those “high” income earners include scads of small businessmen -- and women.

Here, again, voters’ understandings are more sophisticated than condescending and exploitive Democrats allow, especially when voters get clear and direct explanations of who the Democrats think are rich.  For instance, the guy who owns the small widgets shop that employs fifteen people -- including your cousin Edith -- who gives generously to the church, and who helps sponsor the local little league, isn’t rich; he’s a friend, neighbor, and employer.  He’s one of the standup guys and gals who keep Elmsville from becoming Alms-ville. Or as Democrats would prefer, Government-Handout-ville.