Short term wins could spell long term losses in fiscal debate

President George W. Bush answers questions from reporters before the start of a meeting with members of congress to discuss his tax cut plan at the White House on February 15, 2001 in Washington D.C.

The latest from the fiscal cliff talks might yield a breakthrough or a blip -- we've certainly seen hopes for compromise rise and fall before.

House Speaker John Boehner has proposed letting the Bush tax cuts expire for millionaires. That's considerably higher than the president's proposal to raises taxes on those making more than $250,000 a year, but it opens a space for negotiations.

The process of pushing through those Bush tax cuts 12 years ago might seem like ancient history, but we could stand to go back in time and learn from it. That, at least, is the advice of Fortune Magazine's senior editor at large Allan Sloan.

"What happened was, rather than compromise with the Democrats and get a permanent tax cut, the Bush people pushed through something called a reconciliation, which had to expire," he says.

This overeach is now coming back to haunt the Republicans, according to Sloan. He argues that high-income earners are likely to end up paying more in taxes than they would if legislators had been able to reach a more moderate tax cut compromise during the Bush years.  

"The lesson that we ought to take is: What seems brilliant and innovative today could come back and bite you a few years down the road," says Sloan. 

On the other side of the aisle, Sloan says the Democrats should back down from their hard line stance on Social Security and cut a long-term deal to save the program from financial collapse and drastic cut-backs down the road. 

About the author

Jeff Horwich is the interim host of Marketplace Morning Report and a sometime-Marketplace reporter.

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