The PJ Tatler

White House Ponders New Tax Cut

If imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, Mitt Romney should be bursting with pride.

Is this the October surprise?

The White House is weighing the idea of a tax cut that it believes would lift Americans’ take-home pay and boost a still-struggling economy, according to people familiar with the administration’s thinking, as the presidential candidates continue battling over whose tax policies would do more for the country.

Obama administration officials have concluded that the economy, while improved, is still fragile enough that it may need another bout of stimulus. The tax cut could replace the payroll tax cut championed by President Obama in 2011 and 2012, which was designed as a buffer against economic shocks such as the financial crisis in Europe and high oil prices. It expires at year’s end.

The new tax cut could provide hundreds of dollars or more a year to workers and show up in every paycheck. It may be similar to a tax cut Americans received in 2009 and 2010, which provided up to $400 for individuals and $800 for married couples, sources close to the administration said.

The administration’s work on the proposal comes as each presidential candidate is under intense pressure to demonstrate he has the better tax plan. During the campaign, Obama has insisted that he wants to keep taxes from rising for the middle class while increasing them on the wealthy as a way of shoring up the country’s finances. His challenger, Mitt Romney, has sharply criticized Obama’s approach, saying any new taxes would crimp economic growth, while also calling the White House’s earlier stimulus efforts a failure.

The Romney campaign and top Republican lawmakers declined Friday to provide comment specifically about the tax cut being considered by the White House.

Romney’s plan would include reform as well as rate cuts so Obama’s cheap trick isn’t so much imitation as it is desperation. And there is nothing being said by the White House about corporate taxes — the highest in the developed world.

Clearly, the Romney tax plan has the Obama campaign worried and feel that they need to counter. It is doubtful many voters would buy into the president’s deathbed conversion on taxes, but any movement toward Obama at this point would be unwelcome.