I'm confused about the state of Barack Obama's tax promises. Last week we heard this strong, admirable declaration that campaign promises would be upheld - a rejection of the "center-right" media meme that tax increases on the super-wealthy hurt the economy (anyone remember how the economy boomed after Bill Clinton raised taxes on the wealthy?):
Aide: Middle-Class Tax Cut a Priority
Emanuel Hints That Increase for Upper Incomes Also Won't Be Postponed
By Michael A. Fletcher
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 10, 2008
President-elect Barack Obama plans to push ahead with a middle-class tax cut soon after taking office, his choice for White House chief of staff said yesterday. Rahm Emanuel also hinted that Obama would not postpone a tax increase for families earning more than $250,000 a year despite the deepening economic gloom. (emphasis added)
Now this week we get this:
Obama may delay tax-cut rollback for wealthy
By Randall Mikkelsen
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President-elect Barack Obama may consider delaying a campaign promise - to roll back tax cuts on high-income Americans - as part of his economic recovery strategy, two aides said on Sunday. David Axelrod, the Obama campaign strategist who was chosen to be a senior White House adviser, was asked if the tax cuts could be allowed to expire on schedule after tax year 2010 rather than being rolled back by legislation earlier. "Those considerations will be made," he said on "Fox News Sunday." Bill Daley, an adviser to Obama and commerce secretary under former President Bill Clinton, said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that the 2010 scenario "looks more likely than not." (emphasis added)
I'm confused. Beyond the very clear - and admirable - mandate Obama created for himself in terms of raising taxes on the rich, history suggests such a policy is not at odds with righting an economy.
While I'm not a huge fan of Bill Clinton on a lot of issues, I think he was courageous on the issue of income taxes - and that his courage proved to be good policy, as evidenced by the economy's performance right after the tax increase, and as evidenced by the fact that the tax increases gave his government much-needed new revenue (revenue that Obama now needs for priorities like energy investment, health care and economic stimulus/infrastructure spending). Clinton proved that the right's rhetoric about tax increases on the super-wealthy hurting the economy is a bunch of B.S. - and he proved it only 15 years ago.
I hope the example Clinton set on the tax issue is the Obama administration's path forward.