LAMBRO: Bill versus Barack
The former president lobbed his latest missile Tuesday when he urged Mr. Obama to temporarily extend George W. Bush’s tax cuts that are due to expire the end of this year, including the two top tax rates for the nation’s wealthiest income earners.
That was rank heresy, as far as the White House was concerned. But when Mr. Clinton used the word “recession” to talk about the economy, that violated the party line that we are in “a recovery,” something many if not most Americans do not believe, according to a Gallup Poll.
Mr. Obama has steadfastly opposed the lower tax rates for Americans earning more than $250,000 and has shown no sign of backing away from his position, despite opposition from Republicans who want the tax cuts made permanent.
The end of the year expiration date has put the nation on a perilous course that many economists say is headed toward a fiscal cliff at a time when the economy is slowing down and unemployment is rising.
Not only will everyone’s income taxes go up in January, but so will the Social Security payroll tax, which has been temporarily reduced to 4 percent to boost the economy but will revert back to 6 percent, unless it, too, is extended.
At the same time that taxes will rise sharply, $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts will also take place if Congress can’t work out an end-of-the-year deficit-cutting plan.
But Mr. Clinton said in an interview on CNBC’s “Closing Bell” with Maria Bartiromo that a long-term agreement most likely can’t be reached in the lame-duck session after the election and will have to be put off until sometime next year.
“What I think we need to do is to find some way to avoid the fiscal cliff, to avoid doing anything that would contract the economy now, and then deal with what’s necessary in the long-term debt-reduction plans as soon as they can, which presumably would be after the election,” he said.
“They will probably have to put everything off until early next year. That’s probably the best thing to do right now,” he added.
Republicans cheered Mr. Clinton’s remarks, saying they supported the GOP’s position to keep the Bush tax cuts in place right now. “Even Bill Clinton came out for it, before he was against it,” House Speaker John A. Boehner said.
The White House declined comment, but it’s clear that Mr. Obama’s advisers and campaign strategists considered his remarks “off message.” Nameless officials “pointed out that Mr. Obama has said repeatedly that he would not extend the Bush tax cuts for higher earners,” The Washington Post reported.
But it seemed clear the president’s advisers were not happy about his unsolicited advice and communicated that to Mr. Clinton’s office. Not long after his interview, the former president’s spokesman Matt McKenna released a brief statement explaining his remarks, but not backing away from what he said.
“In the interview, he simply said that he doubted that a long-term agreement on spending cuts and revenues would be reached until after the election,” the statement said.
“Later, in the interview, he said government spending levels were higher and revenues were lower than they would normally be because there was a recession and we’re still living with the aftermath of it.”
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