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No Economic Basis for Holding Middle-Class Tax Cuts Hostage to Tax Cuts for Wealthy

Extending most expiring tax cuts other than President Bush’s high-income tax cuts would boost gross domestic product (GDP) by a significant 1.3 percent next year, a new Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report finds, while extending the high-income tax cuts would do very little to support the recovery, boosting GDP by just 0.1 percent (see chart).


This timely report shows that holding a one-year extension of the Bush middle-class tax cuts hostage to an extension of tax cuts on incomes over $250,000 (for married couples filing jointly), as House Republicans have done, creates dangerous economic risks with little economic upside.

The Senate passed a bill earlier this year to extend the middle-income tax cuts — as well as Alternative Minimum Tax relief and 2009 Recovery Act improvements to refundable credits for low- and moderate-income working families — for 2013, when the economy is expected to remain weak.  But House Republicans have said that they won’t extend those tax cuts unless Congress also extends the high-income tax cuts, which they say are critical to the recovery.  The CBO report makes clear that there is no economic justification for this approach.

In fact, it’s just the opposite: extending the high-income tax cuts would mean little for growth in 2013, but failure to extend the middle-class tax cuts (or stimulus measures equally or better targeted to boosting demand) risks pushing the economy into recession.

Letting the high-income tax cuts expire would also shrink deficits by nearly $1 trillion over ten years.  This would be a major step towards stabilizing the debt and, consequently, would boost national saving, private investment, and long-term economic growth.

Chuck Marr
Vice President for Federal Tax Policy