Geithner: Keeping Bush Tax Cuts "Irresponsible"

President Bush signing his $1.35 trillion tax cut bill, June 7, 2001 at the White House. Citizens for Tax Justice estimates the total cost of Bush era tax cuts, not counting interest paid on national debt, was $2.1 trillion — one-third of which benefited the wealthiest 1%. AP Photo/Ron Edmonds

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Tuesday it would be "deeply irresponsible" for the Obama administration to support a wholesale extension of Bush era tax cuts, including breaks for the wealthy.

Geithner said in a nationally broadcast interview that President Barack Obama strongly believes those reductions should be retained for the "95 percent" of taxpayers with individual incomes under $200,000 a year and families below $250,000.

For the highest-income Americans, the administration would let the tax cuts put in place by President Bush in 2001 (which were set to expire this year) end on schedule.

The Center for American Progress, using data from the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Tax, estimates that keeping the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans could add $680 billion to the nation's debt over the next ten years.

Republicans have argued that all the Bush tax cuts should be extended or made permanent.

Geithner disagreed with accusations the administration has been hostile to Wall Street and the business community.

"The business community always wants their taxes lowered," Geithner said, calling that understandable.

He said he didn't know if Congress would act on the issue of the tax cut extension before the midterm elections this November, but that "it is the responsibility" of lawmakers to ensure that the issue doesn't fall victim to Capitol Hill gridlock.

Asked about former Federal Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan's statement that he hadn't seen such animosity between Washington and Wall Street in decades, Geithner said Mr. Obama had a deep obligation "to fix what was broken. There was nobody here or across the country that would argue that our system worked."

Will Democrats Extend All the Bush Tax Cuts?

On CBS' "Early Show" this morning, Republican strategist Kevin Madden suggested that it could be a winning element of the GOP's campaign this fall: "Make it a choice of whether or not we want to raise taxes at a time where the economy is sluggish. Do we really want to send more money to Washington? Do we really want to grow the size of government? If we're going to stimulate the economy, then we have to give people the incentive to create jobs. And when you're raising taxes, that doesn't do that.

"So it's a very easy argument to simplify for a lot of voters in the midterm elections," Madden said.

Democratic strategist Tanya Acker, however, argued that keeping current tax rates for the wealthy is untenable.

"I think that it's an issue of math," Acker said. "My feeling on the Bush tax cuts at the outset was that we couldn't afford them then - no president in the history of United States of America has ever cut taxes in the middle of a war - and it seems that the folks on the GOP side seem only to be able to do math when they're talking about balancing budgets on the backs of working people. We simply can't afford these tax cuts right now. It's as simple as that."
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