EDITORIAL: No tax cut fantasies

The newly sworn-in Democrat-led Senate appears to be flailing about in trying to reach consensus on President-elect Barack Obama’s financial stimulus package, with most of the disagreement centering on $300 billion in tax cuts and refundable tax credits.

Senate Democrats haven’t gotten the message. Despite Mr. Obama’s insistence on the campaign trail - and manifested by his early actions on the stimulus package - that he would be bipartisan in his legislative decisions, Democratic Sens. Kent Conrad of North Dakota, John Kerry of Massachusetts and Barbara Boxer of California are having none of it.

Mr. Conrad actually said that the tax cuts for small businesses were “misdirected” and that there were too many of them. Mr. Kerry said he would rather see the refundable tax credits go to spending on “infrastructure and energy conversion.” Mrs. Boxer, attempting to save face, chastised the media for characterizing their comments as a “disagreement,” although that is exactly what it is. Mr. Conrad’s assertion that a tax cut won’t be an incentive for businesses to hire workers is laughable - even more so, considering that the stimulus proposal currently includes a $3,000 tax credit for businesses that either hire or keep people in their jobs rather than lay them off. Energy conversion, Mr. Kerry should know, is a 20-year transition and nothing in the stimulus is going to bring it any faster.

Word leaked to us early last week that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was not comfortable with the size and scope of the tax cuts in the proposal, but her office immediately nixed those assertions, saying, “Pelosi supports them as they are the middle-class tax cuts that Obama talked about during the campaign.” Her message team went on to say that they would be working with Mr. Obama’s staff, Republicans and the relevant House and Senate committees on the entire economic recovery proposal. Mr. Obama asked House Minority Leader John Boehner and House Minority Whip Eric Cantor for their input and to craft a proposal. Mr. Boehner’s office said Republicans are “generally pleased” with the tax cut proposal. Mr. Cantor will chair a stimulus working group hearing Thursday featuring Mitt Romney as they craft a package to target where the large and small business and personal-income taxes should be targeted. But that is where the harmony ends.

The Senate Democrats’ arrogance will be proven to have no bounds if they try to sell Americans on the idea that a tax cut is bad for them. If they do, they should hire Ricardo Montalban to reprise his role as Mr. Roarke to sell it for them, because only on Fantasy Island do they have a prayer of that message succeeding. Mr. Obama should leave the island immediately and be ready to stand with Republicans to make it clear that he will support small businesses and the middle class even if he has to battle with his own party to do it.

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