In a September 22 article on congressional plans to help fund Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts, USA Today suggested that a determination by Congress not to extend President Bush's tax cuts past their sunset date would constitute "raising taxes." But referring to letting a tax cut lapse as the equivalent of "raising taxes" is a tactic used by the GOP to tar its opponents. No less a partisan than House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) recently equated the two.
USA Today reported that "the country's worst natural disaster has forced Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress to think about the unthinkable: raising taxes." But in purporting to specify what would constitute "raising taxes," the article cited only two tax-related proposals: not making permanent tax cuts that are scheduled to lapse in 2008, and enforcing current tax rates by "closing corporate tax loopholes." From USA Today:
[T]he country's worst natural disaster has forced Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress to think about the unthinkable: raising taxes.
Treasury Secretary John Snow said this week that Katrina may "push to the back burner" efforts to make the administration's temporary tax cuts permanent.
Democrats have pushed to let Republican tax cuts expire. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is among those who favor saving $70 billion by repealing the capital gains and dividends tax cuts, which expire in 2008. Democrats also say money could be found by closing corporate tax loopholes and cracking down on waste and fraud.
Although Senate Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg, R-N.H., has said he won't rule out raising taxes, most Republicans reject that approach.
USA Today's assertion that Reid is pushing for "repealing" the capital gains and dividends tax cuts is false -- Reid and other Democrats have advocated allowing those tax cuts to expire as scheduled in 2008, not by pushing through legislation that would eliminate them before that time. A Republican plan to extend those and several other tax cuts from 2008 to 2010 would increase the deficit by $70 billion.
A Reuters report on September 20 made the distinction clear. The article quoted Gregg suggesting that he was open to a "revenue solution" to pay for Katrina relief, but he refused to "get too specific about" whether that would entail a tax increase or merely the expiration of Bush tax cuts:
In the Senate, Gregg refused to rule out tax hikes, saying Congress must "look at all functions of the budget, including the revenue side."
He refused to say whether a revenue review could include consideration of tax increases, putting off extensions of Republican tax cuts already enacted or raising the wide range of government fees on businesses and individuals.
"I'm willing to look at a revenue solution and I'm not going to get too specific about it," Gregg said after leaving a meeting of Senate Republicans also attended by Vice President Dick Cheney.