When Advisors Attack
08-03-2009
I managed to catch both of the much-discussed Sunday morning television appearances by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner (This Week) and Chief Economic Advisor Larry Summers (Face the Nation) yesterday, so I was treated to the full head-scratching, hearing-checking impact of both men refusing to rule out a middle class tax increase by the Obama Administration, in order to help with deficit reduction.
 
When multiple administration officials show up on the Sunday morning shows making essentially the same argument, that is usually a subtle signal that the administration is seriously considering a shift in future policy direction. But given how adamant President Obama was during the campaign about not raising taxes on incomes under $250k, the combined impact of the two men’s statements was anything but subtle. Not surprisingly, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs set about walking back the two advisors’ comments at today’s White House briefing.
 
It is true that some economists claim that taxing high incomes alone isn’t sufficient to deal with projected program costs, and it may be that Geithner and Summers were answering their respective questions in the hypothetical, speculating as economists often do. But even if their answers accurately reflect a changing economic reality, from a political perspective, I can’t think of anything that would be more damaging to Obama than reneging on this very clear pledge. You can listen to him rule out any middle class tax increases on the campaign trail here, and, while you’re at it, why not take a trip down memory lane with President George H.W. Bush here.


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