WASHINGTON — Did my ears deceive me? Did I hear House Minority Leader John Boehner say on CBS’s Face the Nation Sunday that “If the only option I have is to vote for those at 250 or below, of course I’m going to do that.” He was referring to voting for extending the Bush tax cuts to those making less than $250,000 a year. And he was referring to the issue when there is a building momentum to keep the tax cuts for everyone in an era of fragile economic growth and 9.6% unemployment. Even some Democrats are willing to keep the tax cuts, but Boehner just made it difficult for them.
There is a growing awareness that we are not getting out of this slowdown anytime soon. Independents and the Tea Party movement are siding with conservatives in favor of extending the tax cuts. There is a sense that economic growth is part of the answer to our economic problems. And there is a realization spreading across the country that official Washington is clueless.
President Barack Obama in his first 19 months in office increased the national debt by more than all presidential administrations from George Washington to Ronald Reagan combined. Obama’s extravagance follows the huge amount of red ink splashed around by the Republicans when they were in office. It led to the Republicans relinquishing the presidency in 2008. Now Boehner just indicated that if his party gets back in power the spending might very well continue. The very rich will have paid more in taxes and that not being enough to pay for Washington’s extravagance, there will be a value added tax for all of us. Yes, there will be a VAT. There just is not that much to be taken from the rich.
After all, those who make $250,000 are in the top ten percent of economic earners who pay 70% of all income taxes. Given our enormous budget deficits, the expropriation of the rich would not be enough. We could send them to reeducation camps and still there would be deficits. We are facing budget shortfalls in the area of a trillion plus dollars for the next few years. Long term the deficit will be in the neighborhood of over one hundred trillion dollars! On the other hand, if we whack the rich our troubles worsen, for they account for most of our investment and job growth. Better it is to have their money working for us on behalf of economic growth. Official Washington would penalize the rich so we can all suffer together rather than let us all prosper in a growing economy. Boehner blew it.
Of course, he rushed on to say to say that he would “fight to make sure that we extend the current tax rates for all Americans.” But the damage had been done. What possessed him? Is it that President Obama has decided to make him his contemporary embodiment of George W. Bush, or is it that Boehner really has lived in Washington too long? Whatever the case, if he cannot stand the heat, he knows where to go.
Elsewhere in the country, the citizenry is rising up out of grave concern about the huge government deficits, local, state, and federal. That is the one issue that is getting out the vote, and many of the voters are new voters. They have come to the realization that these are not normal times. We face the recently acquired budget deficits and the cost of entitlements that were already scheduled to kick in when the baby boomer retired. No one paid it much attention, but now the Tea Party movement has.
The Republicans can claim the Tea Partiers’ vote, but only if they work for it. Boehner just made that more difficult. Fortunately Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is sensitive to his party’s fragile connection with the Tea Party movement and with multitudes of other alarmed citizens. He promises to block the Democrats’ tax increase in the Senate with his 41 Republicans holding fast and four Democrats on his side plus the Independent Joe Lieberman. As Lieberman said this week, “The more money we leave in private hands, the quicker our economic recovery will be.” Lieberman is for extending the tax cuts a year. Then the citizenry will have spoken and we can get serious about long term growth and economies in government.
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