This was a big push by the administration. The cost of extending the cuts to the high income earners would be hundreds of billions of dollars. And yet, seemingly over the course of a couple of days, Obama caved on the cuts for everyone. Why?
You’ve heard of the term “nickel and diming”. In negotiations, there’s a tactic where you give them the nickels so you can keep the dimes. The idea is to pretend something is really important so the other side doesn’t notice what’s really important to you. Tax cuts to the wealthy was Obama’s nickel. But he made it such a big deal the Republicans had no choice but to take a political stance against it. But if you really think about it, it wouldn’t have been fair not to make the cuts permanent for everyone. It’s true the deficit will suffer more now, but there are easier ways to get money into the hands of the middle class than making it look like you’re punishing the wealthy. We’ve seen it with previous stimuli. Obama made this nickel really shiny, and he had to sacrifice little political capital to get it.
The question then of course is what was Obama’s dime? Well there may have been many dimes. He sacrificed his nickel to get the Republicans to the table. The bill includes dozens of other things that Republicans might have otherwise opposed. A big one was the extension of unemployment benefits. This was something the Republicans hated because it increases the deficit (like the tax cuts wouldn’t…). I’m not an expert on legislation, the dime may be in a bill coming later for all I know