Americans can’t afford Democrats’ tax increases

Sen. Mike Lee | Senator, Utah

Last week, Democrats insisted that Congress raise taxes on the American people. So committed are they to the cause that one top Democrat said they would actually allow the country to drive off the so-called “fiscal cliff” if it gave them the leverage they needed to get their way.

Mind you, they’re not demanding comprehensive tax reform. They haven’t insisted on overhauling the tax code or proposed major revisions that simplify the system so Americans can understand and file their own taxes.

Instead, Democrats are demanding Republicans join them in a plan that divides Americans by income and pits them against one another.

The Democrats are trying to enflame the basest of human emotions to create division amongst the country and then use this division for short-term political gain. This divisive rhetoric is a far cry from the “hope and change” promised four years ago, and exposes the desperation many on the left feel as the electorate realizes Democrats are out of ideas.

Aside from the fact that this call for higher taxes is politically motivated, there are plenty of good reasons to oppose the Democrats’ tax hike. The proposal does not solve the problem of out-of-control deficits and debt and will do significant damage to the American economy.

First, the American people did not create our unsustainable debt and they shouldn’t be asked to give more of their hard-earned tax dollars to fix it. Washington takes enough in taxes from hardworking Americans. The problem is that the government does not spend the nation’s tax dollars carefully. Our $16 trillion debt is a result of Congress’s unwillingness to perform one of its most basic functions — setting spending priorities.

Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution provides that Congress controls the purse strings, which means that we in Congress are accountable. The responsibility falls on the House and Senate — not the American people — to reform the system, enact hard caps on future spending, and balance the federal budget.

Bottom line: Congress shouldn’t ask hardworking taxpayers to give the federal government an additional dime until we get federal spending under control.

Second, the CBO, the IMF, the Federal Reserve, and experts and economists of all stripes warn that the proposed tax hike will significantly damage our economy and make it even harder for employers to create jobs.

Think about where we are right now. We’ve had more than $5 trillion added to the national debt under President Obama. Unemployment has exceeded 8% for 41 consecutive months. Nearly 13 million people are out of work. Millions more are underemployed or have quit looking for jobs.

If the president and Senate Democrats are successful in taking hundreds of millions of dollars out of the hands of employers, what resources are those employers supposed to use to grow their businesses? What resources are they supposed to use to hire back all those workers?

There is a certain irony in the Democrats’ proposal to increase taxes on some Americans while leaving the necessary tax relief in place for others. While purporting to help hardworking Americans, this approach would actually have the opposite effect and hurt many of those Americans who can least afford the hit right now.

A new study from Ernst & Young reveals that the Democrats’ plan would directly kill 710,000 jobs. These job losses will come from those living paycheck to paycheck, the very people who can least afford to lose their jobs. These are not corporate CEOs or the top 1%.

Democrats will tell you that their tax hikes are about reducing the deficit and national debt. But their proposal would still leave 94% of this year’s deficit intact — which makes it an inherently unserious proposal for deficit reduction.

Further, the president’s own 10-year budget, which includes massive tax increases, still adds $11 trillion to the national debt.

I appreciate that the president is finally talking about our unsustainable debt and deficits. But you can’t look the American people in the eye and tell them you’re doing something about the debt when your own budget nearly doubles the national debt over the next 10 years.

Republicans have proposals and plans to reform the tax code, reduce the deficit, grow the economy, and create jobs. I have legislation that would permanently keep tax rates at their current levels so families and businesses know what to expect. It would also eliminate the death tax and stop the expansion of the “alternative minimum tax,” which is quickly becoming the “middle-class penalty tax.”

These measures and others would go a long way toward improving our economy and getting people working again. If my friends on the other side of the aisle disagree, then let’s work together to find some common ground.

But these election-year antics and distractions are not what the American people sent us here to do and do not reflect a good-faith effort to craft solutions. The longer we wait to enact real reform, the more difficult the problem will be to solve.

Mike Lee is a senator from Utah and a member of the Joint Economic Committee.

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