Extension wise

Published 9:04 am Monday, December 6, 2010


Extending federal tax cuts may not be a sustainable — or even a very good — idea, but in this instance it is what Congress ought to do before Dec. 31.

Typically referred to as “the Bush-era tax cuts,” the federal tax law that took effect in 2001 and 2003 is set to expire at the end of 2010. Although it’s not the way tax law usually works, the “sunset provision” built into the current law serves a good purpose by forcing Congress and, at least in theory, the American people to re-examine the situation. Were it not for the worldwide credit crisis and general economic weakness that continue to affect so many Americans’ lives, we might today be arguing that the tax cuts should be allowed to expire. But circumstances are not ordinary by any means and it seems, now, to be less than wise to saddle many Americans with higher tax bills and at the same time provide additional revenue to a government that simply must find ways to tighten its belt.

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There are, of course, many contradictory views and Congress is mired in its usual politics-first inability to make a decision, with some arguing for repeal of the tax cuts, others agreeing they should remain in force and still others lobbying for some compromise position. One of those compromises that makes sense would be to couple the continued tax cuts to extensions of unemployment benefits. In a perfect world, those two ideas don’t fit together. But in this far from imperfect situation, it might be the best plan.

In any case, it is vital that Congress and the president agree quite quickly to make some extension of the Bush-era tax cuts. Three weeks isn’t much time for a Congress that has proven hopelessly ineffective. But Americans should hope that their representatives can pull themselves together to get this done.