The Bush Tax Cut was designed to expire after 10 years. Why? Because it would have blown the budget even more to do so. And that was BEFORE the recession. So let it EXPIRE after the 2 year Obama Extension. These will be the tax rates that were VOTED on by the Republicans in 2001. These are the tax rates the GOP wanted taxpayers to have in 2011/2013 and on.
So lets start from scratch. Extend the 10% rate up to 50,000. Take the Cap off Social Security taxes, or do the "donut" and have SS taxes on income over $200,000. Or better yet, cut employee (NOT employer) taxes on the first $20,000 as either Krugman or Reich suggested, and take the cap off.
Finally, not preferential treatment on UNEARNED income. That is why the rich get richer. They pay less taxes on THEIR income, allowing MORE investment that gets taxed at a lower rate. I would be fine with a lower rate for say the first $50,000 in unearned income.
So let the Bush Tax HIKE take place, then allow the Middle Class/Obama/Democratic Tax Cuts take place. The GOP can vote against them, and face the electorate in 2014,2016, or 2018. Or they can vote for them. But the Dems will be able to run on cutting taxes. I would prefer they be called the Democratic Tax Cuts, as Obama is not running again.
Last point, Obama's STARTING POINT should not be return to the Clinton Era tax rates on upper income. It should be to the HIGHER tax levels under Reagan, JFK, or Eisenhower. We can certainly have 5 or 6 tax rates, with higher rates on income over $1 million, and even higher rates on income over $10 million.