South Carolina’s James Clyburn, the third ranking Democrat in the House, appeared overwhelmed with joy. He proclaimed:
“So here we are on New Year’s night, with the clock running out on the very existence of this Congress, finally considering bipartisan legislation to provide middle class tax cuts, require the wealthiest to, once again, pay their fair share so we can grow the economy, create jobs and protect the most vulnerable in our society.”
The twenty-year House veteran appeared convinced that deal crafted less than 24 hours earlier satisfied President Obama’s “fair share” campaign promise.
Mr. Clyburn was not alone, though. Moments before returning to his Hawaiian vacation, President Obama reminded bleary eyed Americans that “a central promise” of his campaign “was to change the tax code that was too skewed towards the wealthy.” Rather definitively, he added, “Tonight we've done that.”
You can see why Republicans like Michigan’s Dave Camp dared to hope this would be the end of President Obama’s class warfare rhetoric. Camp, who also serves as Ways and Means chairman, explained, “now that we have permanently settled how much revenue the government is going to take out of the economy” we can proceed with “comprehensive tax reform.”
Not every Democrat agreed with President Obama and Mr. Clyburn, though.
Louise Slaughter, a New Yorker to the left of Nancy Pelosi, was infuriated because the deal “protects too many wealthy Americans.” Although she ultimately voted for the bill, this distant relative of Daniel Boone was helping to blaze a trail for the Democrats’ continued push to raise taxes.
Perhaps it was because of the late hour, but Mr. Camp’s counterpart on the Ways and Means Committee and fellow Michigander Sander Levin made clear more tax increases were on the way.
Despite “achieving the President’s goal of asking the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans to pay more,” Levin said, “The President has made clear there has to be a balanced approach, and no one should be misled into thinking otherwise, no one.” In his eyes, the bill set an “important precedent…in terms of additional revenues…”
Heck, even President Obama doesn’t really agree with himself. In a video to supporters, he promised to pursue a big balanced bargain that “asks the wealthiest Americans to contribute and pay their fair share.”
And despite being pushed aside by Vice President Joe Biden during the last minute fiscal cliff deal making, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was on message. After new senators were sworn in, Reid promised, “Any future budget agreements must balance the need for thoughtful spending reductions with revenue from the wealthiest among us and closing wasteful tax loopholes.”
[Aside: Because the text of the bill was not available to senators before they voted, perhaps Mr. Reid was unaware the deal he dutifully touted gave billion-dollar companies special tax breaks and left small businesses with a higher bill from the IRS.]
Despite Democrats’ near-unanimous promise of future tax increases, we are told not to worry. One conservative pundit confidently explained, “the idea that they [Democrats] will raise rates again in the Obama years...is a fantasy.”
Tax rates may or may not increase, but one thing is certain: you can raise taxes without raising rates. Dick Durbin, the Senate’s second ranking Democrat, reiterated his fellow Illinoisan “is insistent that any future talks about deficit reduction include revenue. There will have to be some other aspect of it that’s brought to the table, and if it isn’t a rate increase, there are other ways.”
AEI’s James Pethokoukis notes “White House economists thought a tax hike of around $500 billion was doable via broadening the tax base.” He continues:
“One potential Obama bargaining chip is the sequester, particularly the $500 billion in defense cuts that many GOPers loathe. So perhaps Obama can offer to turn off the defense cuts in exchange for $500 billion from limiting tax breaks for the rich.”
Mr. Levin, who played chief antagonist to House Republicans on New Year’s night, explained they were “setting the stage for a balanced approach from here on out by delaying sequestration through 1-1 revenue to spending cuts.”
Our nation can no longer afford to play this game. Republicans must, as Mr. Camp and others indicated they would, take tax increases off the table. It will never be enough for the political left.
Case in point, left-wing heart throb and new Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren refused to define what constituted the middle classing, saying, “it’s not a numbers issue.” Guess what middle class...you’re next.