Congress’s Holiday Gimmicks
In the past, Congress would put all kinds of special interest “gifts” into last minute appropriation bills, a so-called Christmas tree. But even after the 2010 elections, the temptation remains this year. “Gifts” such as increased spending, budget gimmicks, hidden subsidies, the threat of tax hikes, and, of course, higher debt are all on the list!
Before the end of the year, Congress is planning to vote on a whole host of legislation, including an omnibus spending bill (in lieu of moving individual appropriation measures, the way they are supposed to), a so-called “doc fix” bill, the payroll tax, and numerous tax subsidies as well as an extension of the unemployment insurance benefits.
It’s a lot to get done, and there is not a lot of time.
One idea being thrown out around Capitol Hill is to roll all of these proposals into one massive bill. Some proposals would even include a vote on restarting construction of the Keystone Pipeline and a repeal of environmental regulations on boilers. Hey, if you’re going to throw in the kitchen sink may as well try to sneak some good policy in too, right?
Let’s break down each of these proposals, one by one:
Omnibus Spending Bill
The omnibus will be at the inflated levels of the Budget Control Act, which are higher than the House-passed Ryan budget. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) thinks that the law requires Congress to spend up to the spending ceiling. However, the failure to restrain spending will only continue our destructive path towards collapse, like Greece.
It is one of the most common gimmicks in Washington. Politicians claim to cut spending from Medicare in the form of reimbursements to doctors, and then disregard those cuts with a so-called “doc fix” because they know that cutting doctor’s payments for Medicare patients severely limits care for seniors. Congress needs to clean up Medicare’s doctor payment mess, permanently.
It is the issue du jour of the President Obama’s political team. Liberals are trying to raise taxes on job creators to pay for an extension and expansion of the payroll tax holiday. Conservatives are all for tax cuts. We want to reform the entire tax code, not engage in the game of wealth redistribution. So let’s cut taxes, but no one should have their taxes raised in a weak economy, especially not those who are creating the jobs we need to become healthy again.
Also at issue is a $30 billion extension of tax perks, credits and loopholes desired by industry lobbyists. Conservatives are all for getting rid of loopholes, and creating a fairer-flatter tax. It’s just another reason we need to focus on comprehensive tax reform.
Unemployment benefits currently last for 99 weeks (nearly two years). Many big-government types like to claim it is the most effective form of stimulus! (Hint, they are not.) Research also shows extended unemployment benefits actually contribute to higher unemployment. The benefits are also financed by debt, and transfers money from a productive sector of the economy to an unproductive sector. Congress should be pursuing real reforms, not continuing the status quo.
With $15 trillion in debt, each one of these fights will rightly center around massive levels of spending. Good conservatives must hold the line on spending, and not allow themselves to be distracted by the class warfare political rhetoric.