John Adams, Barack Obama, and tax policy

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He should remember it before a typical attack on Republicans for supporting the Bush tax cuts that were not offset during a time when CBO was still projecting surpluses, and it was agreed that surplus receipts do in fact belong to taxpayers.

He would be well served to remember that every single one of his budgets has proposed virtually the same approach. All three of Obama’s budgets include a “current policy adjustment” to assume away the scheduled expiration of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts under current law.

If Obama were to continue those tax policies beyond their scheduled expiration, relative to a current law baseline, he would either have to show those extended policies as major revenue losers, or find a way to offset them. That’s no fun, so maybe just assume they’ll go on forever and not bother paying for them.

That’s exactly what the president did. In his budget for FY2010, the administration includes a policy adjustment of $2,681.3 billion to “Continue the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts.” Similar adjustments were included in the FY2011 and FY2012 budgets.

He would be well served to remember that his PAYGO proposal to Congress did not require extensions of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts to be paid for. As stated in the administration’s analysis of the proposal, “Section 7 establishes a temporary scoring rule for purposes of statutory PAYGO, to adjust for the substantial deviation between ‘current policy’ and ‘current law’ in four policy areas: Medicare's ‘Sustainable Growth Rate’ for paying physicians under Part B, the estate tax, the AMT, and the 2001 and 2003 income tax cuts.”

It’s one thing to complain about tax policies at a time when deficits are running $1 trillion deficits. It’s another thing entirely to hurl partisan rocks from an evidentiary glass house. This is the type of dissembling that does little to further progress on our nation’s budget challenges, but is par for the course from a president that has long-since foresworn governing in favor of campaigning.

Gordon Gray serves as director of fiscal policy at the American Action Forum