U.S. Rep. Richie Neal is being slammed by his opponents in the September primary for recent comments he made about the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy, which are due to expire this year.
Earlier this month, the Washington, D.C., paper The Hill reported on Democrats who have indicated a willingness to consider that extension, despite President Barack Obama’s opposition. In the words of Hill reporters Russell Berman and Bernie Becker, some Congressional Democrats said “that they could get on board with a short-term deal that extended all tax rates and didn’t implement spending cuts, as a way to either keep the economy from contracting or pave the way for a grand deficit bargain.”
That group included Neal, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, who “said he would listen to a proposal for some ‘breathing room’ if he thought a substantial deficit deal could be achieved,” The Hill reported.
Neal isn’t the first in his party to take that position; former President Bill Clinton caused a major stir recently when he commented that he could support a temporary extension of the tax cuts— remarks that caused no end of embarrassment to the party, and left Clinton scrambling to do some damage control.
Meanwhile, Neal’s two opponents in the September Democratic primary for the 1st Congressional seat, have slammed the incumbent for his own comments about the tax-cut extension. Shortly after The Hill article appeared, Bill Shein, an activist and writer from Alford, responded with a campaign statement calling the cuts “deficit-ballooning, income-inequality-widening, starving-our-communities-of-necessary-resources, bending-over-backwards-for-wealthy-interests Bush-era tax cuts for the one percent.”
Neal’s comments that he would consider extending those cuts, Shein said, amount to “precisely the kind of embarrassing ‘give-it-away-before-negotiations start’ positioning that has passed for ‘compromise’ in the Congress for too long.”
This week, the third candidate in the race, Andrea Nuciforo, a former state senator from Pittsfield, weighed in as well, urging Neal to stand with his fellow Democrats in Congress who oppose extending the cuts—and to “vote like a Democrat.”
“We need to elect strong Democrats that are willing to have some backbone and actually stand up against these ludicrous tax breaks that only put us further in debt,” Nuciforo said in a press release. “If we want to seriously address our sky-rocketing debt, making the richest among us pay their fair share is a $72 billion a year place to start.
“The myth that ‘trickle-down economics’ will somehow help low-income earners by providing so-called ‘job creators’ with even bigger tax breaks is straight out of the George W. Bush textbook,” Nuciforo continued. “Rep. Neal and House Democrats need to unite and pledge to not support these tax breaks for the rich under any circumstances—it hasn’t worked for 30 years, and it won’t now.”