Steve Conover @ The American:
With the so-called fiscal cliff approaching, politicians are virtually unanimous that the expiration of the Bush-era tax law presents a clear and present danger to the middle class. According to the White House, the typical middle class family’s taxes would jump by $2,200 per year. The president recently took this message directly to the people: “Tell members of Congress what a $2,000 tax hike would mean to you. Call your members of Congress, write them an email, post it on their Facebook walls. You can tweet it using the hashtag ‘My2K.’”
Curiously, however, hardly anyone has noticed that today’s sentiment is a flip-flop for just about any Democrat who has run for any political office any time in the past decade — from the presidency on down. Why? First, consider the Left’s decade-long mantra deriding the Bush tax policies as “tax cuts for the rich,” then ask a simple question: how could the expiration of “tax cuts for the rich” hurt anyone but the rich?
In other words, if the Bush cuts actually were just “tax cuts for the rich,” then their expiration couldn’t hurt the middle class. On the other hand, if their expiration would hurt the middle class, then characterizing them as “tax cuts for the rich” was a false message all along.
Now that the election is behind us and the fiscal cliff confronts us, it turns out that the expiration of the Bush cuts (i.e., the tax side of the “fiscal cliff”) would strike a severe blow to the middle class. Opponents of the Bush tax cuts have therefore done a silent flip-flop on whether the cuts helped the middle class. Sticking with their old mantra would risk shoving the middle class over the cliff.
Why a silent flip-flop, instead of overt? Because the explanation is a bit uncomfortable: calling the Bush cuts “tax cuts for the rich” was a rhetorical goldmine in support of a political message. It was a terse, persuasive slogan, pithier than the truth that the Bush policy was actually progressive tax cuts for all taxpayers; recasting it as “tax cuts for the rich” was therefore more effective at helping the Left win elections. Fair enough; that’s politics. The Left outfoxed its tax-cutting opponents by employing better rhetoric. But now, in late 2012, the political message must shift, because the looming expiration of the Bush tax policy is a real financial threat to the middle class — and therefore a political threat to any politician who fails to defend the middle class.
Bottom line: suddenly there is near-unanimity that the Bush tax cuts were beneficial to everyone at all income levels — not just the small portion of taxpayers at the top income levels.