Bush wants tax cuts made permanent
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush on Monday campaigned to make his tax cuts permanent, saying that allowing them to expire would be harmful to an already limp economy. The message was perhaps aimed more at voters than lawmakers.

The Democratic-led Congress has shown little interest in renewing most of the tax cuts, and Republicans are seeking to use the issue as political leverage in the upcoming presidential campaign. Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton both have called for raising income taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

Bush used the five-year anniversary of his signing of the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003, which lowered rates on capital gains and dividends, to make his case that Congress should extend his first-term tax cuts set to expire in 2010.

"The best way to deal with uncertainty is to let people keep more of their money," Bush said following a round-table discussion at the White House complex by current and former administration economic advisers and businessmen.

"Tax cuts have been an engine for economic vitality,' he said. "Given the fact that tax cuts have worked, what will be the Congress' response?"

Edward Lazear, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, said not renewing the tax cuts amounts to a tax increase.

"It's always important to remember that taxation means taking money from the people," Lazear said. "I view taxphobia (a fear of raising taxes) as a blessing not an affliction."

Raising taxes especially in an economic downturn is ill-advised, he said.

"We can't ignore the reality which is that we are in a slow-growth period right now," Lazear said. "I don't think this period will end up being called a recession, but there is no doubt that the economy is weaker than we would like it to be."