TAX CUT FEVER….Matt Yglesias, commenting on the new and reduced tax plan, says this today:

The NY Times, meanwhile, says this is a “substantial political victory” for the administration, which is an odd way of phrasing “total surrender to Senator Voinovich.” Remember when a $350 billion tax cut was only an “itty bitty” cut, insufficiently “robust” for the president?

Well, which is it? Political victory or wretched surrender?

The funny thing is, given the way George Bush operates I really can’t tell. His MO seems to be a sort of standard issue Casbah haggling style: start off asking for double or triple what you really think you can get, pound the table like a maniac fighting for it, and then let yourself get whittled down to what you really wanted in the first place.

In fact, my recollection is that back in January the punditry was guessing that Bush would propose a tax cut in the $300-400 billion range, and when the real plan clocked in at $670 billion it was met with barely concealed awe. I believe that “bold” was the preferred word of the day.

So: did he really want $670 billion and the current plan is a real kick in the balls? Or did he actually want $350 billion all along, and he’s just pretending to be disappointed?

Kevin’s amateur analysis: he really wanted the lower figure. The higher one was (a) just an initial bargaining point, and (b) a shrewd way of protecting himself against economic uncertainty. If the economy does well, the tax cut gets the credit. If the economy tanks, he tells everyone that things would be better if only the Democratic congress had listened to him.

Rather clever of him, isn’t it?

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