As everyone knows, Bush passed what he called temporary tax cuts. They were labeled temporary—and were legally structured as temporary—to minimize the impact they had on the government projections. (It's outrageous that some Republicans now claim that they helped the economy and with it the government's fiscal position. If that were the case, they wouldn't have had to be labeled temporary in the first place. The point if labeling them temporary was that it was known in advance that they would reduce government revenue over both the short and long term!)
The Republicans expected that no one would have the guts to let them expire since in doing so the Republicans could claim that taxes were being raised. If I didn't know better I would say it's unbelievable how dishonest the Republicans are. But I do know better. All I can say is that it's extraordinary that the media and the public let them get away with their dishonesty.
In any event, the Republicans are ramping up their sound machine to make those tax cuts permanent. They are claiming that letting them expire as originally written into law would hurt the economy and cause jobs to be lost. Republican's say that anything they don't like causes jobs to be lost. It's become a reflex with them.
Fortunately, I don't think it will happen. To extend the tax cuts requires that a law be passed that does so. And for that to happen Obama has to sign it. Weak as he has been, it's hard to imagine him doing that. I guess the Republicans can somehow try to blackmail him into signing an extension by including it as an amendment of some must-have legislation. But if Obama has any spine at all—which at this point I'm not so sure about—he won't be rolled.
The best outcome would be that the total amount taken in taxes won't be increased but that the beneficiaries of the tax cuts will be changed from the very rich to the rest of us. Given who Obama is, however, what's more likely is that something will pass that Obama will describe as shifting the benefits, but in fact what passes will keep most of the benefits for the very rich and make only a symbolic gesture at moving some of them over to the rest of us. Obama will praise it as a bi-partisan compromise. You can see how cynical I've become with respect to Obama.
I guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens. Whatever happens, and what Obama does to shape the outcome, will be very significant in revealing more about what kind of person he really is.