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Published: Thursday, 9/9/2010

Tax the rich fairly

President Obama has taken the politically expensive but wise - for the nation - option of refusing to extend the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for the rich, which are set to expire at year's end.

He is being equally sensible in retaining the tax cuts for single filers who make less than $200,000 and couples who earn as much $250,000, which account for 98 percent of American households. These are targeted primarily to help middle-class Americans, who are by no means rich and are being hit hard by an economy with high unemployment and little sign of growth.

In doing so Mr. Obama is taking on what he calls the "greedy rich." Some are CEOs of large corporations who make, on average, 263 times as much as the average American worker. As he fights to roll back their tax rates to pre-2001 levels, they no doubt will strike back at him and the Democratic Party by pouring contributions into this fall's campaigns on behalf of Tea Party and Republican candidates. These candidates will pledge to continue to block Mr. Obama's efforts to increase employment and otherwise reverse the recession.

One proposed alternative is that the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans continue until 2013, an expiration date safely past not only the 2010 congressional elections but also the 2012 presidential and congressional elections. Mr. Obama showed sound fiscal judgment and courage in refusing this alternative.

Estimates show that Mr. Bush's gift to the rich cost the federal government $1.6 trillion. The current budget deficit stands at $1.3 trillion and the national debt at $13 trillion. Why would Mr. Obama want to wait another three years to begin attacking that mess?

The federal government needs revenue sooner, particularly if he is to fulfill his pledge to put $50 billion into rebuilding America's infrastructure, creating jobs in the process. The announcement of that initiative was probably ill-timed, given the practice of congressional Republicans these days to pursue a "no-nothing" approach to anything Mr. Obama tries to do. This would presumably include even an effort to tackle the dual problems of ailing infrastructure and stubborn joblessness.

Republicans apparently believe that opposing Mr. Obama's efforts to improve the situation of the unemployed will attract the support of Tea Partiers. Are they all rich? Do they not need government services such as Social Security and more-affordable medical care?

The Nov. 2 election is less than eight weeks off. It will be interesting to see how much analysis of the country's financial situation will be reflected in Americans' votes that day.



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