White House Correspondent
Has White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod done an about face on the Bush tax cuts?
In an e-mail Thursday, he said that the administration has not bowed to Republican demands to extend the breaks to everyone, including the wealthy -- seemingly a change from earlier remarks.
"We're willing to discuss how we move forward," Axelrod wrote to the National Journal
following a Huffington Post story headlined "White House Gives In on Bush Tax Cuts," "but we believe that it's imperative to extend the tax cuts for the middle class, and don't believe we can afford a permanent extension of tax cuts for the wealthy."
In an interview with the Huffington Post
on Wednesday evening, Axelrod said President Obama would accept an extension of the Bush tax cuts
across the board -- for middle- and upper-income earners alike. It is a departure from the administration's previous position, but, as Axelrod explained, "We have to deal with the world as we find it. The world of what it takes to get this done."
Despite GOP insistence that the tax cuts should be extended for all Americans, for months Obama has vowed not to extend them
for individuals making more than $200,000 per year or families making $250,000 annually, saying the country could not afford the estimated $700 billion the cuts would add to the federal deficit.
But in the days following his party's self-described "shellacking
" in the midterm elections, both the president and Republican leaders seemed to suggest that a compromise
might be possible.
In the interview, Axelrod justified the administration's apparent change of heart, offering that Obama "took the position he felt was the right position" but that this "optimal" stance was untenable in the current climate. "I don't want to trade away security for the middle class," he said, "in order to make that point." (All of the cuts are set to expire at the end of the year unless they're renewed by the current Congress.)
The details on the White House position remain murky: Axelrod indicated that the upper income extension would only be temporary. "Plainly, what we can't do is permanently extend these high income taxes," he said. On Thursday morning, the National Journal
reported that walked back from his earlier statements to the Huffington Post, instead stressing compromise with Republicans on the issue.
For the White House, the debate over taxes and deficit expenditures is only beginning: On Wednesday, the chairmen of the president's deficit commission released initial outlines of their report -- which includes a host of controversial recommendations including Social Security changes and tax increases.
For the moment, the president is remaining mum. "I'm not going to comment on [the outline] because I want [the commission] to have the space to do their work," he said in a press conference at the G-20 summit in South Korea. He then added, "If we are concerned about debt and deficits, then we're going to have to take actions that are difficult and we're going to have to tell the truth to the American people."