WASHINGTON -- Sen. Mary Landrieu, a conservative Democratic from Louisiana, lashed out Tuesday at President Obama's deal with congressional Republicans that allows tax cuts for the wealthy to be extended for two years.
Extending the tax cuts for those making more than a million dollars a year is borderline immoral, Landrieu charged. "I'm going to argue forcefully for the nonsensicalness and the almost, you know, moral corruptness of that particular policy," said Landrieu, walking into a meeting with Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Democrats. "This is beyond politics. This is about justice and doing what's right."
Landrieu was fuming about the deal. On her way into the meeting, she slammed the tax-cut extension as a needless giveaway, adding, "That's all I have to say." But it wasn't. She emerged from the meeting a few moments later to continue prosecuting her case to reporters.
"It's what I'm calling the Obama-McConnell plan. We're going to borrow $46 billion from the poor, from the middle class, from businesses of all sizes basically to give a tax cut to families in America today, that despite the recession, are making over a million dollars. I mean, this is unprecedented. Unprecedented. I want to repeat that," she said. Landrieu added, however, that she had yet to make a decision on the final package and was speaking strictly about the extension of tax cuts for the wealthy.
In 2001, Landrieu backed the tax cuts when they were initially proposed. "It was the biggest tax cut in two decades, and I felt that we enjoyed surpluses and it was only fair to return some of the money to the taxpayers," Landrieu said in 2008, defending her vote. She opposed Bush's 2003 tax cuts, which focused more heavily on capital gains and dividends.
Landrieu put today's tax-cut debate in the context of the poverty and joblessness facing African Americans across the country. "The median net worth of African-American families -- net worth, not income -- in this country today, according to our census, is $5,000. You want me to repeat that? $5,000. So we are borrowing money from constituencies, and large segments of the population like this," said Landrieu. "I want you all to get your heads around this."
Obama had allies in the Senate who would have fought the extension of the tax cuts, Landrieu said, if only he had relied on them. "Why the president didn't think there were forty or fifty or sixty of us to defend him on this principle, I don't know, but he basically didn't think anybody of us cared much about it. Well, I want him to know I do care."