We Should Phase Out the Bush Tax Cuts

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Matt Yglesias alerts me to an “excellent idea” from Maine’s newly-elected independent senator, Angus King:

I was in favor of ending the Bush-era tax cuts immediately, but after continued poor employment numbers, we need a more nuanced approach. We should consider pegging the sunset of these tax cuts to something non-arbitrary, like a certain amount of GDP growth, or a lower level of unemployment. This would avoid the unproductive brinkmanship that Congress engages in over this issue — and could prevent our fragile recovery from being further slowed down.

I appreciate the sentiment behind this, but it’s too technocratic to succeed. It also sets up some really bad incentives: if you really hate higher taxes, does this give you a motivation to oppose policies that would be good for the economy?

But something similar would be nearly as good: let all the Bush tax cuts expire, but phase them out. Maybe a third in 2014, a third in 2015, and a third in 2016. That would be good for the economy now, and good for deficit reduction in the future.

I know, I know: this isn’t going to happen. I’m just looking for something to write about during the hours in which we continue to know nothing about how the election is going. You may now return to your previous TV-watching activities.

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This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

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