Castor: fate of Bush tax cuts uncertain

11/29/10 Kate Bradshaw
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One of the most contentious issues Congress will take up during its lame duck session is that of the Bush-era tax cuts. Democrats want to keep the cuts for everyone but the richest two percent of Americans, but let them expire for Americans earning over $250,000 a year. Monday in Tampa, WMNF spoke with Democratic US Representative Kathy Castor, who says she hopes the GOP doesn’t try to block the cuts before they expire.

If Congress doesn’t act, the tax cuts President Bush implemented in 2001 will go away at the end of this year. Most Democrats want to see them stay in place, but only for the first $250,000 of earned income. Tampa-area member of Congress Kathy Castor says there are a lot of misconceptions about the cuts.

"There is a little bit of confusion about the application of these tax cuts. Everyone will get a tax cut on the first $250,000. It's not that if you make a $1,000,000 you're not going to get some tax relief. So I think that's one important point."

Reuters reports that the tax cuts would cost the federal treasury an estimated $2.9 trillion over the next decade. If they were to apply to incomes beyond the first $250,000, it would cost the fed an additional $700 billion. Castor says now’s not the time to further squeeze the federal government’s revenue stream.

"We're struggling right now with the debt and deficit and with economic recovery at the same time. I think what I'm hearing from most folks across the Tampa Bay area, they want us to fight for tax cuts for the middle class and for everyone."

Among the critics of keeping tax cuts in place for the wealthy is billionaire Warren Buffett, who recently said the trickle down effect Republicans claim ensues from cutting taxes for the rich is a myth. Castor says she doesn’t think holding onto cuts for the richest Americans will improve the economy.

"I would hope that moving forward that the Republicans do not hold the middle-class tax cuts to fighting for tax cuts beyond the $250,000 for millionaires. It doesn't make sense right now. That would blow a hole of $700 billion in the deficit. That is something we simply can't afford right now, especially when we've been in such economic turmoil. It is proven that tax cuts for the very wealthiest among us do not provide new jobs."

If Republicans are successful at blocking a vote on the Bush tax cuts, the tax rate will go up for all Americans – not just those earning over a quarter million a year. Castor says she doesn’t know whether she would support keeping the tax cuts for the top two percent of earners in the US if it meant preserving them for everyone else.

"I can't do a hypothetical right now. I really have to see what compromise is proposed and I don't think it's beneficial right now to be negotiating that way, I think we've got to get the parties in the room, if they want to propose something, let's see it. But we haven't seen any proposal other than extend tax cuts for millionaires forever and disregard the debt and deficit and those challenges that face our country. And that's not a winning proposition."

So you can't say yes or no?

"That's right."

The GOP will take over the House of Representatives in January. Many of the newly-elected members of the House ran on platforms dealing largely with jobs and the economy. The party is gunning for tax cuts for the rich while at the same time trying to block the extension of unemployment benefits for some 2 million Americans.

Previous WMNF coverage of Bush tax cuts

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