The Corner

Congressional Cynicism on Tax Hikes

Progress is often a matter of higher, faster, further — profits are higher, computer chips are faster, cars run further on a gallon of gas. In Washington, progress is often measured by more and more — spending more than ever and being more cynical than ever. The liberal leadership in Congress has set a new standard for progress.

Not content with having pushed the budget deficit over $1.4 trillion with an Olympic-sized spending spree, the House of Representatives will rush back from its August recess next week to vote on another bailout package, this time for states that have failed to manage their own finances. They justify disrupting their precious vacations with the “urgency” of the matter. The urgency, of course, is that the teachers’ unions want federal taxpayers to pay more local teachers’ salaries. At least Congress has reaffirmed where its priorities lie: more political payoffs, more spending, and more bailouts.

At the same time, the House and Senate leadership have now indicated they intend to pass tax bills warding off a massive tax hike beginning in 2011, thus raising taxes only where it will do the most harm to the economy. But wait! They have made clear there is no “urgency” to develop legislation, pass it in both the House and the Senate, and send it to the president for his signature. One might imagine that if House members can rush back from their August vacations to pass another bailout for the states, then they could reflect a similar sense of urgency in fending off a massive middle-class tax hike just before an ominous midterm election. They might even delay their October recess to complete their work, having set the bar for urgent matters.

Yet the liberal leadership has indicated they intend no such thing. Why is that? Because their real intention is to set both bills aside when they come back after the elections in a lame-duck session. They expect to use a dour report from the president’s debt commission to abandon the recently passed tax bills, let most or all of the earlier tax relief expire, and so hit the middle class with a huge, full-monty Obama tax hike — conveniently after the election.

If majority leaders Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) and Harry Reid (D., Nev.) would stand up before the elections and acknowledge they intend to pass the Obama tax hike in full — slamming the middle class and the economy politics as job growth sputters and wages stagnate — they would then be rightly praised for honesty and transparency, if not for their policy. But even by Washington standards, new heights of cynicism are reached when congressional leadership pulls a legislative head fake like the September tax-bill ruse.

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