Imagine a Congress running in a tough environment — the electorate is angry; a war is going badly; the unemployment rate remains stubbornly high. And imagine such a Congress facing the prospect of passing a nice, pre-election tax cut for all. They’d pass the tax cut faster than Speaker Pelosi (D., Calif.) can say “Ronald Reagan.”
Suppose that instead of passing a tax cut, Congress faced the even more compelling prospect of preventing the largest tax hike the middle class has ever seen. Hitting the middle class with tax hikes is a prescription for political oblivion. Under normal circumstances, such a bill would likely pass the House and Senate unanimously, accompanied with enough lofty oration to launch a zeppelin.
Yet facing exactly this prospect with the expiration of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts at the end of this year, the Democratic leadership in Congress says it intends to wait until after the election to prevent the tax hikes. Why is that? They feign it is because they await the Obama Fiscal Commission report. When will that be? Conveniently, after the election.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) has already signaled the Democrats’ intention to hike middle-class taxes eventually. In the meantime, Democrats could easily prevent a tax hike for 2011 and do so without delay, if that was their intention. Instead, by delaying action until after the election, the Democrats have made it clear that they intend to sock America’s middle class with a mighty tax blow — but not in some future year. They intend to deliver the blow in 2011. They just don’t want to tell anyone yet.
Obama and friends have long signaled that they intend to raise taxes on small businesses, seniors living off of investment income, and other rich folks. This is all part of Obama’s vision for higher taxes to “spread the wealth around.” It seems Democrats are now threatening to spread some serious pain around as well. Fortunately, voters are not stupid. They will see through the Democrats’ smokescreen and may have something to say about this tax hike on Election Day.
– J. D. Foster is the Norman B. Ture senior fellow in the economics of fiscal policy at the Heritage Foundation.