Passion or playing to young voters?
Considering the decibel level of the Tea Partiers and Republicans railing against government spending and advocating tax cuts (the "tea" in tea party stands for taxed enough already), it's pretty easy to forget that it was the Democrats that passed the biggest middle-class tax cut in history.
Every Republican except Senators Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe and Arlen Spector (who later switched sides) voted against it.
What's that, you say? You don't recall a middle-class tax cut bill? Well, it was called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Most people just refer to it as the stimulus bill.
Yes, solidly 40 percent of the much-maligned stimulus bill went to tax cuts, the majority of which benefit the middle class. The White House has a tax cut calculator online to help anyone curious see how the act will lower their tax bill.
Barack Obama held a news conference at the Rose Garden of the White House this week touting one of the most unassailable provisions of the bill, the American Opportunity Credit, which expands on the Hope Credit to give those going to or paying for college assistance with tuition and related expenses.
The program was initially approved for 2009 and 2010, with families making up to $180,000 getting a tax credit for up to $2,500 spent on tuition and college expenses like textbooks.
"I am calling on Congress to make this tax credit permanent so it's worth up to $10,000 for four years of college because we've got to make sure that in good times or bad, our families can invest in their children's future and in the future of our country," Obama said.
"This is not just about making our economy more competitive. It's not just about preparing our kids for the jobs of the future — though all those things are absolutely essential. It's also about who we are as a people. It's about building a brighter future where every child in this country has a chance to rise above any barriers of race or faith or station, and they can fulfill their God-given potential; where the American Dream is a living reality."
With the midterm elections just weeks away, this is a rather obvious ploy to get the college-age voters that supported Obama in overwhelming numbers fired up. But with over 12.5 million students and families taking advantage of the credit in 2009, this isn't exactly a niche market.
But just because a focused middle-class seems like a good (and popular) idea doesn't mean it will come to fruition. According to The Washington Post, with the expanded college tax credit set to expire in January, "congressional leaders have shown little interest in covering the $58 billion cost of extending it over the next decade."
Shocking, I know, considering that Republicans have made tax cuts practically a religion. But White House officials will be advocating using proposed taxes on the wealthy or business to pay for it, and the Republican leadership (save the rare soundbite of reason from John Boehner) has shown it has no interest in lowering taxes unless it can lower them for the wealthy.
Of course, even if Obama proposed paying for the cut by taxing abortion providers, New York Islamic centers and ACORN, it probably couldn't wrangle Republican support.