Much of the media discussion of the massive tax increase that looms on January 1 uses terms like "extending the Bush tax cuts" or "tax breaks for the wealthy." In fact, American taxpayers have faced a particular range of personal income tax rates for the past eight years. If the 2001 and 2003 tax laws are allowed to expire, then Americans will see increased tax rates on income, dividends, capital gains, and estates. So the issue is not "tax cuts" or "tax breaks," it's whether we should increase taxes in 2011.
It's good to see that President Obama understands this. At a news conference at the end of the G-20 Summit on Friday, he said:
I want to make sure that taxes don't go up for middle class families starting on January 1st.
That's the right way to understand it. Taxes are about to go up. Of course, the problem is that President Obama does want taxes to go up for business owners, corporate executives, and investors on January 1, the very people whose decisions have the most immediate impact on economic growth and job creation.
And that's the issue we should be debating: Is it a good idea, especially in a time of continuing high unemployment and slow growth, to raise taxes on investors and entrepreneurs?