Super Duper Washington Logic

Dan Holler

11/21/2011 12:01:00 AM - Dan Holler

I want to do a specific thing. So does my brother. You want to do the same thing. Our friend doesn’t agree. Nor does your brother. What’s our solution? We can petition the federal government to compel their compliance!

Seriously, we can do that.

Two weeks ago, America witnessed the absurdity of a relatively obscure law when the Obama administration announced a 15-cent tax on Christmas trees. After the diligent research of The Heritage Foundation prompted a public outcry, the administration quickly postponed (but not eliminated) the tax.

Perhaps more interesting is how the tax came about. The National Christmas Tree Association tried and failed three separate times to set up their own voluntary promotion fund. Some tree growers wanted it. Some tree growers didn’t. Their solution, though not novel, was to have the federal government impose the tax on all the growers.

Commodity promotions boards exist for a whole host of products. According to a 2008 Congressional Research Service report, Congress now authorizes 18 of these so-called check-off programs; including, beef, blueberries, cotton, dairy products, eggs, fluid milk, Hass avocados, honey, lamb, mangos, mushrooms, peanuts, popcorn, pork, potatoes, sorghum, soybeans, and watermelons. For the most recent year data was collected, the combined cost of these programs was more than $780 million. If you consumed one of those products, that money basically came from you.

Some of the promotion boards’ advertisements are familiar: Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner and Pork: The Other White Meat. And more of them could be on the way! Canola and rapeseed, wheat, flowers, kiwifruit, limes, and pecans have all been authorized for their own check-off programs.

This absurd logic – we’ll force you to pay for something you do not want to do – extends beyond silly commodity check-off programs, though.

Last week, 21 millionaires arrived on Capitol Hill to lobby Congress to raise their taxes. Dubbed the “Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength,” the group is seeking a new tax bracket for households earning more than $1 million per year. Their preferred rate would be 39.6%.

These millionaires believe, as Vice President Joe Biden does, that paying higher taxes is “patriotic.” They believe it is their obligation and duty; the right thing to do. Fortunately, for them, the federal government has empowered them to be patriotic. The Bureau of the Public Debt is allowed to accept gifts donated to the United States Government to reduce debt held by the public.

Perfect! These 21 millionaires, and all those who agree, have a perfectly legal outlet to contribute their unwanted money to pay down our massive debt. And believe it or not, this actually happens. During the past decade, Americans have gifted the federal government nearly $20 million.

Granted, it’s not a lot of money, but it is more than these so-called “patriotic” millionaires are willing to do. One of the millionaires responded that individual donations to the federal government “are not going to help anybody.” Another said, “this is not charity, we’re not doing charity here, taxes are not charity.” A third said, “any one individual is just for show.”

The funny thing is that considering our problem is massive overspending, raising taxes is just for show. Think about it this way. In 2007, well after the so-called “Bush Tax Cuts”, the federal government collected $2.567 billion in revenue. In 2005, the federal government spent $2.471 billion. If we could have frozen spending in 2005, we would have had a $96 billion surplus in 2008. By contrast, next year’s deficit is expected (again) to surpass $1 trillion, as spending remains well above $3.5 trillion.

Rather than leading by example and convincing their fellow millionaires to unite and pay down the debt, they are lobbying Congress to compel them to pay more. It doesn’t matter whether their millionaire friends intend to use the money to create jobs, expand their business, buy a new work truck or donate it to charity – these 21 millionaires think they know how to distribute everyone’s hard earned money better.

It’s the same mentality as the National Christmas Tree Association: not everyone agrees with us, and we won’t act on our own, so we’ll have the government ride to the rescue. That’s not the proud history of America, nor is it the recipe to future success.