Congress Hides Behind A Technicality
The U.S. Senate, on January 1, 2013, at 0200hrs (that's 2AM for you non-military types), voted 89-8 to pass a "fiscal cliff deal" bill that raises taxes by $600 billion (in addition to ObamaCare taxes). The Senate proclaimed the bill to be a massive tax cut. How could they claim that? Well, on January 1, 2013, at 0000hrs the (so-called) Bush tax cuts expired. The tax cuts were renewed for most Americans under the Senate bill. So, technically, the Senate was correct: it did, indeed, cut tax increases if one examines only that part of the bill.
Unfortunately, we taxpayers are stuck with the entire bill. The Senate bill also extended long-term unemployment benefits that were set to expire at the end of 2012. It delayed sequestration for two months, which portends another big fight combining the sequestration and debt ceiling deals. The deal also prevents Medicare cuts and extends Department of Agriculture programs.
The 157 page bill was presented for a vote before many senators had a chance to read it.
Once it passed in the Senate, the bill went to the House of Representatives. The House passed the Senate version of the bill 257-167. Eighty-five Republicans in the House voted for the bill. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said on the House floor: "The American people told us in the election they wanted us to work together." Yeah, right. One of the 85 Republicans that voted for the bill, Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) said, "I'd say let's take the Senate deal, fight another day." Another Republican who voted for it, Rep. Nan Hayworth (R-NY) said, "This is the best we can do given the Senate and the White House sentiment at this point in time, and it is at least a partial victory for the American people. I'll take that at this point."
Soon after the bill was passed by the House, "Dear Leader" President Barack Hussein Obama said, "[This bill] raises taxes on the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans while preventing a middle class tax hike that could have sent the economy back into a recession." Obama also said, "The sum total of all the budget agreements we've reached so far proves that there is a path forward that is possible, if we focus not on our politics but on what's right for the country." After signing the bill, Obama immediately returned to Hawaii to rejoin his family and resume his vacation. That little move will ultimately cost us taxpayers "only" $3 million.
And, guess what. All of these shenanigans took place before the 113th Congress was sworn on Thursday, January 3, 2013.
But (and there's always a "but" when Obama is involved), the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the "fiscal cliff deal" passed by the Senate will ultimately add $3.9 trillion to the deficit over the next decade (you remember, that little item that will eventually wreck the U.S. economy). The extension of the Bush tax cuts for most taxpayers and an adjustment (spelled "increase" of money returned to low-income taxpayers) of the Alternative Minimum Tax will add to the deficit. The CBO estimates that the "fiscal cliff deal" will lead to an overall increase in spending of about $330 billion each year over 10 years. The Senate, by the way, was waiting to hear from the CBO before voting on the bill. The CBO estimate was released before the vote, but the Senate passed the bill anyway, regardless of its deficit effect. This is clearly an example of "kicking the can down the road."
But wait, it gets even better. The "fiscal cliff deal" bill that was passed by the Senate and House, and quickly signed by Obama, will actually increase taxes by $600 billion. And, the bill did not entirely stop "Taxmageddon." The top tax rate, the rate paid by small businesses and investors, will increase from 35 percent in 2012 to 39.6 percent in 2013 for incomes of more than $450,000 for married filers and $400,000 for single filers. Small businesses and investors provide the bulk of the jobs in America. Further, the "bill increases the tax bias against investment by raising the tax rate on capital gains and dividends for taxpayers with incomes above $450,000 from 15 percent in 2012 to 23.8 percent this year."
The bill also features a 10:1 ratio of tax hikes to spending cuts. That's a $10 tax increase for every (promised) $1 spending cut. For perspective, Ronald Reagan signed, in 1982, a tax increase to spending cut bill with a ratio of 3:1. The tax increases came through, but the spending cuts didn't. "Reagan later said that signing onto this deal was the biggest mistake of his presidency." In 1990, George H.W. Bush increased taxes and was promised spending cuts at a 2:1 ratio. The spending cuts ultimately never materialized, but the tax increases did. I guess Congress couldn't read his lips.
What of Obama's precious middle class? He said, on January 2, that the bill is "... preventing a middle class tax hike ...[.] But, according to Amy Payne at The Foundry, the "... deal will actually raise taxes on the vast majority of American workers" by ending the payroll tax holiday. Payne says that the Wall Street Journal estimates that the "typical U.S. family earning $50,000 a year" will lose "an annual income boost of $1,000." This Washington Post article says that the middle of the middle class has an annual income of $49,842 (very close to $50,000). We now have a definition of "middle class." So much for Obama's preventing a middle class tax hike. Does Obama think we are stupid? Unfortunately, a majority of the voting population is, because of various reasons including the MSM, stupid, or at least ignorant of facts.
The worst is that both Obama and the Congress knew for at least two years that the "fiscal cliff" was coming, yet did absolutely nothing about the situation. They waited and waited until after the deadline had passed, thus creating a "deal" that is going to be, at best, devastating. With the outrageous actions of both the Senate and House, I must agree with Peter Schweizer, who wrote the book Throw Them All Out. His book is primarily about financial dealings, but his sentiment well fits this current "technicality" situation.
But that's just my opinion.
Dr. Beatty earned a Ph.D. in quantitative management and statistics from Florida State University. He was a (very conservative) professor of quantitative management specializing in using statistics to assist/support decision-making. He has been a consultant to many small businesses and is now retired. Dr. Beatty is a veteran who served in the U.S. Army for 22 years. He blogs at rwno.limewebs.com.