Every time Congress spends new money on a government program it adds to the bill that taxpayers must pay. The taxpayer is the “forgotten man” who never gets mentioned when Congress pats itself on the back for adding to the federal-spending leviathan.
Such is the case once again this week on Capitol Hill. Going against their promises to be “new Democrats,” the Democrat congressional majority will attempt to raise taxes and spending, all to make a down-payment on HillaryCare 2.0. The socialized medicine bill they will pass this week increases cigarette taxes by $0.91 per pack, while enrolling 25-year old “children” and adults from households making up to $82,000 per year.
Thankfully, the president has said strongly that he will veto this tax-and-spending increase.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, every man, woman, and child in the U.S. will owe $8,590 in taxes this year alone. Considering everyone’s share of the economy is only $45,737, that’s quite a tax bite. All told, nearly one out of every five dollars our economy produces each year gets sucked into federal tax coffers. Throw in state and local taxes, and it is one dollar out of every three. Going forward, the pressures that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid will force on taxpayers will undoubtedly make that figure rise. Some estimate that half of national income will go toward paying taxes, and most of it for these entitlement programs. One would think that Congress wouldn’t create a brand new entitlement program to add to this burden. But such thinking would be wrong.
At a time when the forgotten man’s tax burden is again approaching record levels, Congress is looking to sign adults making $82,000 per year onto the government health-care rolls. This is particularly ridiculous when one considers the fact that S-CHIP, the program Congress is trying to expand, hasn’t yet even fulfilled its original, limited mission (which is to give health insurance to children in households with incomes less than double the poverty line).
S-CHIP was started by the Republican Congress in 1997 as the price taxpayers had to pay for getting President Clinton to sign a bill that cut the capital-gains tax to 20 percent. If the original intent of S-CHIP (enrolling low-income children) had remained in place, it would have been a good deal for taxpayers. States receive a set block grant each year, and have to make due. But states enrolled low-income kids in the millions and then killed the golden goose. They tried to enroll children from higher- and higher-income households, and then their parents. Not surprisingly, some of the most “generous” states (“generous” with the forgotten man’s tax dollars, that is) ran out of money.
So now we have Congress riding to the rescue. Only in Washington can a failure to properly manage a program be rewarded with more tax dollars.
President Bush has been very strong in calling to restrain the S-CHIP program to its limited, original intent, but his hands aren’t entirely clean, either. In order for states to expand their S-CHIP programs to insure post-pubescent children (what you might call “adults”), the feds had to give their consent. And President Bush’s secretaries of Health and Human Services granted waiver after waiver to states to expand S-CHIP. Some of this, then, is the chickens coming home to roost. In fairness, though, current HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt has announced that no further waivers will be granted until states can demonstrate they have fulfilled the original S-CHIP mission.
This current fight on S-CHIP is the first act of a three-act play. In Act I, Congress bloats S-CHIP spending and fleeces taxpayers to pay for it. In Act II, President Bush vetoes this down-payment on HillaryCare 2.0, and sends it back to the Hill. In Act III, Congress and the president come to some accommodation. That may involve a smaller expansion, but the most likely outcome is the can is kicked to 2009 and a new administration. The current fight might be compared to the “phony war” that preceded World War II: We’re using real bullets, but the host of armies has not yet gathered on the battlefield.
Either way, the news is bad for taxpayers. Congress, in flipping Democrat, has made call after call for higher taxes and more spending. President Bush, meanwhile, is the only protection taxpayers have from the unwanted advances of liberals in Congress. It’s essential for taxpayers that they hold their representatives and senators to account for this tax-and-spend orgy. Sixty-one Democrat congressmen (about half of them freshmen) come from historically red — i.e., Republican — districts. Some decapitated heads might have to be hoisted on the city wall before Congress gets the message.
– Grover G. Norquist is president of Americans for Tax Reform and author of the forthcoming book, Leave Us Alone (HarperCollins).