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Elections

Ossoff Wants to Have It Both Ways on Government Spending

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jon Ossoff speaks at a news conference after the election in Atlanta, Ga., November 6, 2020. (Dustin Chambers/Reuters)

Only a little more than three weeks remain until two Senate runoff elections will take place in Georgia on January 5. In one of the two, Republican senator David Perdue is defending his seat against Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff. Throughout the campaign, Ossoff has insisted that Congress ought to pass further COVID-19 relief to help Americans recover during the pandemic-related lockdowns and closures.

Never mind that, for the most part, it has been Democratic politicians holding up COVID-19 relief talks in Congress — Ossoff wants Georgians to believe that the GOP is blocking them from getting necessary financial relief. With tweets such as this one, Ossoff maintains that Congress should authorize a second round of direct stimulus payments to individuals; most Democrats seem to agree that those checks should be for $1,200, just like the first round earlier this year.

In short, Ossoff is running to replace Perdue at least in part on the message that Americans are facing such severe financial difficulties as a result of the pandemic that they need another round of stimulus checks. Perhaps he’s right, and some on the right agree with him, but Ossoff’s concerns about financial hardship don’t square with his support for the Democratic policy agenda, much of which would impose immense costs on taxpayers.

Late last month, Ossoff welcomed the support of Vermont senator Bernie Sanders and praised several of his policies, including his health-care advocacy. If Sanders’s Medicare for All plan were to be enacted, it would require $32 trillion in new government spending, almost certain to end up requiring huge tax hikes on individual Americans. Even if Ossoff ends up backing a public option to the Affordable Care Act rather than Medicare for All, as he says he will, it still could result in a tax increase of more than $2,500 for the average American family.

According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, meanwhile, Biden’s proposed tax plan would raise taxes by about $4 trillion. Households with higher incomes would face much larger tax increases, but the group reports that taxpayers across every income level would see their taxes increase. Ossoff hasn’t taken a stance on Biden’s specific tax proposal, but it seems unlikely that he’d vote with Republicans to block a Democratic effort to raise taxes.

On climate change, though Ossoff says he disagrees with the Green New Deal’s assertion that the private health-insurance market must be abolished to help the environment, he also has commended the bill’s sponsors “for linking environmental policy and infrastructure policy,” which suggests some openness to expansive climate-change legislation along the lines of what the Green New Deal proposes.

According to estimates from the conservative American Action Forum, “the energy and environmental components of the Green New Deal would cost . . . $52,000 to $72,000 per household” and the entire policy, including the jobs and social-justice components, would cost between $316,010 and $419,010 per household. A Heritage Foundation estimate found that the taxes and carbon-based regulations from the plan would cost families a total income loss of more than $40,000 for a family of four by 2040.

Ossoff hasn’t taken a concrete stance on every major policy initiative popular on the left, but even if he backs a more-moderate form of some of these proposals, the effects almost surely would result in increased taxes, offsetting whatever benefit households might gain from another round of stimulus payments. His concerns about ongoing financial hardship likely are sincere, but he ought to acknowledge that several key components of the Democratic agenda would impose high costs on taxpayers during an economic downturn and slow recovery that he himself acknowledges has already harmed Americans.

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