U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack — the former Iowa governor — is among the Obama Administration officials who are urging Democrats in congress to embrace the compromise President Obama hammered out with Republicans. The deal extends unemployment benefits — which Democrats want — and extends all the Bush-era tax cuts — which Republicans want.
“I think it’s important for members of congress and for all of America to understand what’s at stake here,” Vilsack said during an interview with Raido Iowa. “We have an economy that’s in the process of recovering and in order to accelerate that recovery and continue momentum for that recovery it’s important for taxes not to be raised. In fact, it would be beneficial for taxes to be reduced in some areas.”
But Democrats in the U.S. House are balking, refusing to embrace the deal because it extends tax cuts to the wealthiest two percent of Americans.
“The president has been clear that he doesn’t necessarily support extending the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, but recognizes that he is in a process and in a system that requires compromise,” Vilsack said. “I think there’s an expectation on the part of the people of this country that we come together as Americans, not as Democrats or Republicans, but come together as Americans to continue to build economic recovery so we can put people back to work.”
Iowa’s five-member congressional delegation includes three Democrats: Bruce Braley, Dave Loebsack and Leonard Boswell. Braley is the only one of the three who has issued a statement on the deal Obama struck with the G.O.P., saying he is “extremely concerned” extending tax cuts to the wealthy will “explode the deficit.”
Some Democrats have gone so far as to accuse Obama of violating a campaign promise on the matter. Vilsack defends the president.
“He hasn’t necessarily reneged on his pledge,” Vilsack said. “I think he basically looks at the political realities of today and suggests that we’ve got to keep this economy going. We’ve got to keep this momentum going.”
The ag secretary argues there are provisions in the bill that will help farmers, in particular the estate tax exemption which Vilsack said will likely cover “most if not all the farms in Iowa” which may be passed on to the next generation in the coming year.
“Land values are going up because commodity prices are good right now,” Vilsack said. “It doesn’t take a whole lot of land before you get yourself in a circumstance where under the current rules which would go into effect January 1 you would have many, many farms subject to the estate tax and it might make it more difficult for families to pass land on and to keep it in the family. Certainly, farms that have been held by families for generations could be at risk.”
Vilsack also touts the provisions in the package which would extend tax breaks for corn-based ethanol and soybean-based biodiesel. Vilsack, who is in Mexico to meet with Mexico’s agriculture minister today, made his comments this morning during a telephone interview with Radio Iowa.