Ramesh Ponnuru on the politics of the tax cut abdication:
The Democrats’ decision not to hold a vote on taxes until after the election, at the earliest, offers Republicans the opportunity to adopt a simple, powerful campaign message on taxes: Your taxes are going up, and it’s the Democrats’ fault. There’s no need to get into the details of middle-class tax cuts vs tax cuts for the rich. All of them are going to go up.
Republicans have tried for years to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, and Democrats have balked. They have said–they still say–that they want to keep the middle-class tax cuts and shelve the rest. But they have done nothing to make this alleged goal a reality, even with their huge majorities in Congress and control of the White House. They have not moved a bill to keep the middle-class tax cuts. And now they say they have no intention of doing so before the election.
Substantively, this isn't exactly accurate -- Senate Republicans held the universal tax cuts hostage to tax cuts exclusively on income over $250,000 -- but this does describe the political reality very well. Moderate Democrats thought if they voted for a tax cut for everybody, without also getting a tax cut exclusively for the rich, they'd be accused of raising taxes on small business. So they decided not to vote for tax cuts for anybody.
I know I'm harping on this, but the stupidity is mind-boggling. This isn't a lack of principle. My principles say that ending all the tax cuts is better policy than making the universal tax cuts permanent. This is sheer idiocy in the guise of self-preservation.