USA Today op-ed: Keep taxes low

USA Today editorializes today against making the tax cuts permanent, and includes an opposing view from me.

I’ll include both here. I’ve learned that he who writes the opposing view is at a disadvantage, in that they get to see what I wrote, but not the reverse. I thought I had anticipated their attacks, but I only got one of them.

Here’s the USA Today editorial:

Our view on fiscal responsibility: Dr. Bush’s economic cures begin and end with tax cuts
Extension will drive up the deficit, won’t heal nation’s financial woes.

President Bush responded to Friday’s barrage of bad economic news – oil prices and unemployment soaring, the dollar and Dow sinking – with yet another call for extending his tax cuts. “In this period of economic uncertainty, the last thing Americans need is a massive tax increase – so Congress needs to send a clear message that the tax relief that we passed will be made permanent,” Bush said.

This little act of political theater isn’t just misguided. It’s also destructive. For one thing, Americans struggling to buy gasoline and pay next month’s mortgage are unlikely to be focused on tax cuts that might or might not expire in 2011. For another, these cuts – absent matching reductions in spending that Bush has never proposed – were irresponsible when enacted during Bush’s first term, and they are even more irresponsible now that the resulting deficits have added to the nation’s mountainous debt.

Despite inheriting a budget surplus, Bush has not presented a single balanced budget during his presidency, which coincided with the top earning years of the baby boom generation, a time when the government should have been preparing for the coming fiscal tsunami of the boomers’ retirement.

The fact that these tax cuts – which include reductions in marginal rates, repeal of the estate tax and a 15% rate on dividends and capital gains – are set to expire over the next several years reflects qualms that even a compliant Congress had when they were passed. The members who voted for them knew that they could not make them permanent without making a mockery of the budgetary rules. What’s more, they saw the boomers’ retirement approaching.

The situation has been compounded by the spree of spending and borrowing that followed these tax cuts. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the creation of a Medicare drug benefit and other initiatives have ballooned the national debt from $5.7 […]