Politics & Policy

Federal Fat Cats

To Democratic officeholders (and, alas, Bush-Rove-Hastert Republicans) greed is good when it flows from Washington, D.C.

‘I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of, you know, fat-cat bankers on Wall Street,” President Obama told CBS’s 60 Minutes. He also has decried the “arrogance and greed” and “excess greed, excess compensation” of America’s business executives.

Top Democrats like Obama constantly denounce private avarice. But when the fat cats are feds, not financiers, they go silent. To leading Democrats, government greed is good.

Just as Wall Street and corporate America relentlessly pursue profits, Congress and federal bureaucrats possess a ravenous hunger for tax dollars to fuel lavish spending schemes, underwrite generous public salaries and benefits, and seize increasing power. Post–Bush-Rove Republicans should condemn government greed non-stop until November 2 — and then excise this cancer.

These days, the wallets of many American taxpayers feel like helium balloons. Yet Washington always wants more.

Despite the votes of unanimous Republicans and 39 rebellious Democrats, Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s far-left House of Representatives ran home on September 29 to campaign for reelection without renewing the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. A Democrat-led lame-duck congressional session may vote to tax “the rich” — specifically, individuals who earn north of $200,000 annually and married couples who make above $250,000. If so, the top tax rate would rise from 35 percent to 39.6 percent. Remember: These disgusting plutocrats are expected to pay higher taxes and simultaneously hire jobless people and, thus, lower the unemployment rate closer to the 7.4 percent that Obama inherited.

Furthermore, the capital-gains tax could jump from 15 percent to 20 percent (rising to 23.8 percent in 2013, thanks to Obamacare), and the dividend tax could soar from 15 percent to 39.6 percent. This also would snatch growth capital from the productive sector.

The death tax — now dead — could be resurrected at 55 percent on estates exceeding $1 million. Any American who prefers to die without enduring a Democrat-led grave robbery has until New Year’s Eve to stop breathing.

The National Taxpayers Union estimates that if key Democrats prevail, they would slam this sickly economy with at least $678 billion in higher taxes. “These tax-rate hikes won’t just hit Wall Street reptiles or madcap heiresses,” says NTU’s executive vice president, Peter Sepp. “They’ll throw a haymaker at the wallets of urban professionals, small-business owners, doctors, would-be entrepreneurs, and others who just might help the economy get back on its feet. Even a Keynesian ought to understand this. After all, as our recent statement from 313 economists supporting extension of all the tax cuts noted, ‘Households earning more than $210,000 account for one of every three dollars in consumer outlays.’”

Meanwhile, as Americans miss mortgage payments, shutter businesses, and abandon their dreams, it’s happy hour for government employees. What reformist governor Chris Christie (R., N.J.) properly calls “shared sacrifice” means something completely different in Washington: There, the American people sacrifice, and the proceeds are shared among the feds.

As the Heritage Foundation calculates, between January 2008 (one month after the start of the Great Recession) and July 2010, private-sector employment shrank by 7,837,000 positions, or 6.8 percent. However, federal civilian employment grew by 198,000 positions, or 10 percent, not counting temporary Census workers. In 2009, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports, private-sector salaries and benefits averaged $61,051. The federal-civilian figure was $123,049 — more than double. Also, the Office of Personnel Management found that between December 2007 and June 2009, the number of federal employees earning at least $170,000 zoomed 93 percent. Obama, like Bush before him, lets the federal Leviathan act like a Rottweiler at doggie day care.

As if devouring your money were not enough, Washington also sticks its collective snout everywhere. The feds have ordered New York City to change 250,900 street signs from ALL CAPS to Caps and Lower Case, supposedly because BROADWAY is tougher to read than Broadway. Rather than invite D.C. to SHOVE IT, Mayor Michael Bloomberg rolled over and appropriated $27.6 million to obey Washington’s latest edict. This sum could have paid 219 rookie cops their $41,975 starting salaries for three years.

Washington dictates showerhead water pressure, limits the capacity of flush toilets, and essentially will ban Edison-style light bulbs as of 2014. (Thank you, G. W. Bush, for signing that junk legislation.)

Republicans should reject the Bush-Rove-Hastert era’s spendthriftiness and instead — boldly, loudly, and consistently — demand a federal hiring freeze and at least a 25 percent cut in the overall federal-civilian payroll. (While counterterrorists should enjoy generous pay, the Agriculture Department’s director of the Executive Secretariat should not.) If Republicans secure Congress, they should curb Washington’s power lust by voting to repeal Obamacare and, if that triggers a veto, defund this new entitlement. A GOP Congress then should order Uncle Sam out of America’s showers, lamps, and commodes. And the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts should be made permanent so that this melancholy economy can sing again.

As many Republicans apparently have remembered, government should serve Americans, not the reverse. We the people should explain this to Washington Democrats, loudly and clearly, four Tuesdays hence.

 New York commentator Deroy Murdock is a nationally syndicated columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University. 

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online, and a senior fellow with the London Center for Policy Research.