WASHINGTON -- Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan, the powerful Democratic chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, seems determined to kill the economic recovery or at the very least, slow it down.
Levin, who took the reins of the committee when Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., was forced to step down in a hail of ethics charges, said Monday that the Bush tax cuts will be allowed to expire at the end of this year -- which means the top tax rates on wealthier workers will shoot up just when the economy still remains vulnerable.
Levin's home state has been in a depression for a number of years, and apparently the congressman must think it now needs a good dose of tax hikes to make sure that economic growth doesn't get out of hand or that upper-income Americans don't make more money than he and Barack Obama say they should.
While the convalescing national economy appears to be slowly getting back on its feet, it still looks more than a bit shaky in many sectors, from real estate, housing starts and construction to retail sales and bank lending. The unemployment rate is still skirting 10 percent, and nearly 20 states report their jobless rates remain in double-digit territory.
If that doesn't worry Levin and his tax-happy Democratic colleagues on the Ways and Means panel, consider last week's little-noticed cautionary decision by a committee of academic economists.
The National Bureau of Economic Research's Business Cycle Dating Committee thinks the recession ended about the middle of last year, but it isn't ready to officially say so -- at least not yet. They think there is a chance the economy could begin shrinking again or that revisions in earlier data could reveal further weaknesses or setbacks.
"Although most indicators have turned up, the committee decided that the determination of the trough date on the basis of current data would be premature," the panel said. "Many indicators are quite preliminary at this time and will be revised in coming months."
If that's not enough to give Democratic policymakers pause in their rush to raise taxes on small business owners, investors, venture capitalists who come up with the money for new business expansion, or anyone else in six-figure territory, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has similar words of caution.