Orszag’s Op ed yesterday was big news because it was assumed that foes of ending the tax cuts for the rich could point to his stance — and to Orszag’s deficit hawkishness — to buttress their own position.
But Orszag told me that a key point had gotten lost: He only favors temporarily extending the tax cuts for the rich reluctantly, and only if it’s the sole way of obtaining a deal that would end them altogether.
“The point I was trying to make is that we can’t afford the tax cuts over the medium term, and they shouldn’t be made permanent — but the middle class tax cuts should not expire today,” Orszag told me.
“If the price to be paid for that a temporary extension of the upper income tax cuts, my view is that we should reluctantly accept that,” Orszag continued. “I would prefer that that not be the price that is paid.”
This is, to be sure, slightly at odds with Obama’s position — but less so than yesterday’s coverage suggested. In his speech today, Obama will come out against a compromise, insisting that we let the tax cuts for the rich expire right now. Orszag, by contrast, is willing to support a compromise if it’s the only way to obtain a deal on ending the tax cuts.
Orszag’s position in his piece yesterday was evident to anyone without an axe to grind or headline to sell- he thinks extending the tax cuts on the wealthy are a bad policy, but he would suck it up and accept it to keep the middle class cuts in place. The only way to read Orszag’s op-ed yesterday and come away with the coverage we got yesterday was to, well, ignore what he actually said in the op-ed and start salivating about conflict.
But I’m kind of used to that by now.