President-elect Barack Obama and New York Governor David Paterson are on a collision course - one that will illustrate for middle-class families just how quickly a tax cut can turn into a tax hike.
One man wants to cut your taxes by anywhere from $500 to potentially $2,000 from what we've read thus far. The other man wants to raise New Yorkers taxes by an average of nearly $4,000.
The bottom line for that New York family: a several thousand dollar tax hike in the middle of a recession. Whoaa - that's not what middle-class families were promised this fall. Nor is it remotely compassionate or fair given the struggles families are already facing in this deteriorating economy.
Mr. Obama made a very clear promise that helped get him elected: He would provide 95 percent of Americans with a tax cut. In some of his more memorable commercials he even provided a calculator where the average Jane and Joe could turn to figure out how big their tax cut would be.
Democrats rallied around that tax cut promise. After all, the families were hurting. Any promise to ease their financial burdens was eagerly embraced.
Since then, Mr. Obama is still talking about tax cuts, though he's starting to manage expectations down about the size. Yet, he's maintaining his commitment to cutting taxes for families and businesses that stimulate job growth and protection.
Gov. Paterson clearly didn't get that tax cut memo. Rather, he was relatively quick to discard this political promise that helped sweep so many Democrats into office at the federal, state and local levels.
Instead, Gov. Paterson wrote his own memo titled: How to Tax Anything That Isn't Nailed Down.
In December, just more than a month after Obama won the presidential election, and with the economy still in turmoil and worsening by the day, Gov. Paterson dropped a nuclear bomb of a tax hike: More than 137 increases in taxes and fees totaling $6 billion.
The tax hikes are a pure assault on everyday middle-class life. He hikes taxes on clothes, shoes, groceries including beverages, gas, cars, taxis, health care, cable and satellite TV, haircuts, movies and even discount coupons. And this is less than 10 percent of the list.
As a result, even if a President Obama delivers on his tax cut pledge, for New Yorkers, it will be overwhelmed and rendered meaningless by Gov. Paterson's massive tax hikes.
The bottom line is this: The governor's tax hikes will cost the average New York family $3,875.48 - roughly double the most optimistic tax cut that a President Obama might deliver.
This won't help middle class families out of a recession. It'll only add to their financial burdens.
Hard-working families are in a hole right now. Mr. Obama wants to provide an economic ladder to help them climb out of it. But Gov. Paterson is giving them a shovel full of tax cuts that will only dig a deeper hole for millions of families.
Or is that a backhoe he's using?