The American public did not favor the Bush tax cuts over increased social spending or even deficit reduction. Nor did Americans favor the skewed distribution of those tax cuts over more egalitarian alternatives. The Republicans were aware that they were pursuing a policy without public support. So they disguised the size of the cuts with phase-ins (especially at the top end) and sunsets. They also left the alternative minimum tax in place to give them more apparent room for cuts: they realized that its increasing bite on the middle class would compel a fix, but by that time the cuts would already be in place. The sunsets were also designed to create an artificial crisis of sudden, apparent tax increases several years later; the idea is that this will create pressure to make the cuts permanent at that time.
They also stretched legislative norms to maneuver the cuts through Congress. They used their control of the agenda in the House to evade consideration of budgetary alternatives and consequences. And they passed the cuts through the budget reconciliation process to circumvent a Senate filibuster.
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