Rep. Cantor Falsely Suggests Bush Tax Cuts Were A "Primary Issue" In Midterms

November 22, 2010 5:40 pm ET — Matt Finkelstein

Rep. Eric Cantor

As Congress debates the future of the expiring Bush tax cuts, incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) continues to be one of the loudest opponents of any compromise that would ensure long-term relief for the middle class. In a new interview with the Wall Street Journal, Cantor suggests that Republican gains in the midterm election justify his unyielding stance, arguing that taxes were a "primary issue" at the polls:

REP. CANTOR: The message from the election is that the uncertainty connected with the tax rates was a primary issue.

It is something that hopefully we can resolve prior to the end of the year, something that I think that the administration understands cannot be done by decoupling the rates for those making under $200,000 from those higher earners. That's a direct signal that higher earners are going to experience a tax hike with however long the extension is.

The argument that we made during the election is that it's not only the likes of you in this room that are running the very large corporations, but it is the small-business people. If you look at the numbers, 50% of the taxpayers over the $200,000 individual mark get at least 26% of their income from entities that are small businesses, and the higher that percentage goes, the more jobs are created. And I think that is the message that the electorate gave us: Stop even thinking about raising taxes on anybody right now when we're facing these economic times.

Of all the bogus Republican talking points, the argument that voters cast their ballots in favor of tax breaks for the richest two percent of Americans — which is what Cantor and his pals are demanding — is perhaps the most insidious. 

Far from being a "primary issue" in the election, just 18 percent of voters counted taxes as their top priority, according to exit polls. And a majority, 52 percent, said the upper-income tax cuts should be allowed to expire. That confirmed what pollsters have been reporting for months: most Americans believe that the wealthy should be giving to charity, not getting it.

Nonetheless, Republican leaders are prepared to block tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans if the top two percent don't also get their unfair share. Even worse, they don't have a credible economic argument to support their intransigence, as the original Bush tax cuts did not create the economic growth that Republicans promised. Unfortunately, their solution for an expensive failure is to spend $700 billion to repeat the same mistake.