You probably will be getting federal income tax cuts...which do you like better?

Chuck Sheketoff

Congress is now faced with a stark contrast in priorities. Reward ordinary working families and confront our fiscal challenges, or help the wealthiest among us, deficits be damned.

As Congress begins debate on Bush-era tax cuts set to expire at the end of this year, a new analysis by the Washington, D.C.-based Citizens for Tax Justice reveals a stark difference for Oregonians in the approaches put forward by President Obama and Congressional Republicans.

The President’s approach gives bigger tax cuts to the majority of Oregonians, while the GOP approach puts more money into the pockets of the wealthiest among us.

While President Obama and the Congressional Republicans agree that the tax cuts enacted under President Bush should be made permanent for 98 percent of taxpayers, there are still stark differences. A majority of Oregonians will receive bigger tax reductions if Congress follows the President’s lead.

Low- to middle-income Oregonians would get a bigger tax cut under the President’s approach than they would under the GOP approach, the CTJ study (PDF) found. On average, low- to middle-income Oregonians — three out of every five Oregonians, representing households with an average income of $26,131 — would get an extra $98 in 2011 under the Obama approach compared to the GOP approach.

By contrast, the top 1 percent of Oregonians (households with average income of about $1 million) would get $33,110 more in tax breaks on average under the GOP approach than President Obama would provide, according to the CTJ report. Wealthy Oregonians would still see a tax cut under the Obama approach.

President Obama recommends extending the Bush income tax cuts for low- and middle-income Americans and allowing those for high-income households — those with $250,000 or more in income — to expire at the end of 2010 as scheduled. The President also proposes setting the estate tax at a modest level rather than allowing it to revert to pre-Bush-era levels. Under policies enacted during the Bush administration, the estate tax was repealed for 2010 but will revert to the level established under President Clinton next year, absent congressional action.

President Obama’s approach would also extend the improvements made in the Recovery Act to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit that help low- and moderate-income households. Those provisions, approved last year are at the heart of the stark differences in these two competing approaches to the tax cuts.

In other words, the Obama approach gives priority to helping working, cash-strapped households and the economy. Recent improvements to the EITC and Child Tax Credit offset regressive payroll taxes typically paid by modest-income workers such as cooks and preschool teachers. In addition, they provide a good economic bang for the buck during this difficult economic recovery.

Due to improvements made last year in the Recovery Act, an Oregon family with two children working full time at minimum wage currently gets a Child Tax Credit of $2,000. If Congress does not extend the current provisions, that family would receive only $593 after this year.

By comparison, the Congressional Republicans would help ordinary Americans less and give generously to the wealthy. They call for permanently continuing all of the Bush tax cuts for all households, regardless of their wealth. In contrast with the President, the Congressional Republicans would permanently repeal the estate tax, a tax cut that would benefit only the wealthiest of the wealthy, fewer than one out of 100 estates. The Republicans would not extend the 2009 improvements to the EITC and Child Tax Credit that help Oregon’s low-income working households.

The Obama strategy would also improve our nation’s balance sheet. By discontinuing the Bush tax cuts for the highest-income 2 percent of Americans, the country would make substantial progress in reducing troubling projected budget deficits.

By contrast, Congressional Republicans take the country down an unsustainable fiscal path. If they are extended, the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy will contribute more to our country’s long-term fiscal problems than either the bank bailout or federal recovery measures or, assuming they are phased out, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Republican proposals are fiscally irresponsible.

Congress is now faced with a stark contrast in priorities. Reward ordinary working families and confront our fiscal challenges, or help the wealthiest among us, deficits be damned.

Oregon Center for Public PolicyChuck Sheketoff is the executive director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy. You can sign up to receive email notification of OCPP materials at

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    As far as making this a lively debate, I have got to say Chuck really screwed up this one....I can't see how anyone could disagree with what he said.

    Unless you want to argue that the well-being of the top 1% is more important than the other 99%, or you want to follow along the lines of the Almighty Dick and say "deficits don't matter," I don't see how the GOP plan makes America better.

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    Let me make a wild guess here: Congress will find ultimately pass something in between. Taxes will not go up as much as Obama wants, but the substantive provisions he wants will be largely enacted.

    This is essentially the compromise they've been talking about for a year or more. Since the Bush tax cuts expire at the end of this calendar year if nothing is done, Republicans have an even weaker hand than usual. This is one case where filibuster and gridlock won't work, but they'll try to leverage as much as they can.

    Vulnerable Democrats in swing states will not want to leave themselves vulnerable to charges they are raising taxes during a recession and so will help Republicans keep some of the tax cuts Obama wants to reduce or eliminate.

    This will produce more political rhetoric on both sides than it deserves, I predict.

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    Why NOT let the estate tax revert to Clinton administration levels? Was there some dearth of venture capital under the Clinton boom I was not aware of?

    Seems to me that splitting the difference between Clinton and Bush rates moves the estate tax further and further towards the GOP goal of elimination.

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    We should just get rid of the child tax credit at this point. Children are a net-drain on society, especially given the overpopulation of the planet and Oregon already. We're hovering around 10% unemployment, meaning the economy already can't handle the people we have already: Do you really think having kids is going to fix that?

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    This country did fine economically without an income tax at all for over a century. Some of the social polices were whacked at the time and I am not supporting those policies with my comment. The income tax is a waste guys. It just goes to pay interest on the debt Congress created. We need to end central banking and the tax systems created around it if we wish to stop a repeat of the current crisis.

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      You mean back before we had a modern military, an interstate freeway system, Social Security, airplanes to name just a couple of things the Feds run off the top of my head?

      Your comment is supposed to be a serious one suggesting that we eliminate the Federal income tax? Really?

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