Today is April Fool’s Day and the biggest prank I’ve seen so far is the one proponents of this budget are trying to pull on the American taxpayer.
Proponents of this budget say the plan is transparent, but the authors knowingly hide a stunning explosion in long-term debt by conveniently dropping the last five years of their budget.
Proponents of this budget say the plan cuts taxes for low- and middle-income families, but right there on page 32 is the blueprint for a plan that would raise taxes on anyone who drives a car or heats their home.
Proponents of this budget will say that it cuts spending, but this plan adds nearly $5 trillion to the public debt in just five short years.
Proponents of this budget say this plan is honest because for the first time it extends protections against the tenacious reach of the alternative minimum tax, but revenues from the AMT mysteriously reappear in 2013 and 2014.
Proponents of this budget will say it contains no reconciliation instructions and preserves an important minority privilege. But this budget doesn’t preclude reconciliation either, and my colleagues know that our brethren in the House of Representatives are banging on our chamber doors with a budget that does include reconciliation.
Now I know folks back home in Wyoming are listening to me, scratching their heads and saying “what the heck is reconciliation and why should I care?” Let me sum it up this way: reconciliation is the on-ramp to a national energy tax. Reconciliation will make it impossible for me to protect your family from higher energy prices. Reconciliation will make it impossible for me to protect your community from cost-cutting layoffs. Reconciliation will make it impossible for me to make your voice heard here in Washington DC.
Reconciliation does not allow for a full and open debate. Reconciliation does not allow a thorough vetting and amendment process. Reconciliation’s fast-track nature shuts out members of the minority party and will shut out many centrist Democrats too. Reconciliation is the declaration that any idea—other than the majority party idea—has no place at the drafting table.
As a former committee chairman and the co-author of many successful bipartisan bills, I know firsthand that ramming through reconciliation is not a successful model for good government, and it’s certainly counter to the way Senator Kennedy and I work together on the HELP Committee. Senator Kennedy and I strive to work together in a bipartisan fashion to achieve legislation that both sides can support. Laws like the Pension Protection Act, the Head Start Reauthorization, and the MINER Act were hundreds of pages in length, but passed with little dissent in the Senate. The budget resolution we adopt for the new fiscal year ought to follow a similar bipartisan model, especially on issues like education and healthcare which are so important to the future of our nation.
Misusing the reconciliation process to get a health care bill is not the right approach and it conflicts with the new bipartisan spirit that President Obama has promised. A bill passed without work and agreement by both parties on the front end is more like a shotgun wedding than legislating.
This budget includes a massive tax increase – $361 billion in explicit tax hikes and $1.3 trillion embedded in 27 different reserve funds. And despite the “Robin Hood” rhetoric of taxing the just the “rich,” the tax increases contained in this budget will hit all Americans. No one is spared:
This budget raises taxes on energy. If you drive a car or heat your home, your taxes will go up.
This budget raises taxes on senior citizens who are dependent on dividend and capital gains income for the retirement income.
This budget raises taxes on charitable contributions at a time when we need charity the most.
This budget reinstates the death tax, making it harder to keep the family ranch or family farm or family business in the family.
This budget raises taxes on small business. More than half of all small businesses that employ between 20 and 500 employees will see their tax bills rise and jobs eliminated. Small business is the incubator for entrepreneurship and we should protect it and nurture it, not tax it.
And most foolish of all, none of this “new” money will help reduce the deficit. Instead, this budget directs all new taxpayer money to the expansion of big government—more government programs we can’t afford.
I think a newspaper columnist, Diane Badget from Lovell, Wyoming said it best when she wrote how her mother would react to what’s happening in Washington today. Diane wrote, “Momma always said, ‘If you don’t have enough money to buy a quart of milk you don’t take someone else’s hard-earned cash and buy ice cream.’”
The budget we are debating this week certainly would put us on the hook for a lot of figurative ice cream all right—all kinds of flavors. This budget charts ominous new policy directions for healthcare, education and energy.
Peter Orszag, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, has argued that we need to fix health care in order to address our current economic crisis –a sentiment echoed by many in this chamber. But this argument misses an important point. If we enact the wrong health care fix, our budget crisis will get even worse. Simply throwing more money at the problem—as this budget suggests—is not a solution.
I am concerned about the direction of energy policy in this budget. This budget leaves open the possibility of putting in place a carbon cap-and-trade system which will lead to higher energy prices for families and small businesses. Enacting such a system is the equivalent of placing a national tax on energy usage. Raising energy prices at a time when families are struggling to make ends meet just doesn’t make sense.
I don’t support federal policies that will increase energy costs, even in good economic times, but it is especially troubling that the budget lays the framework for this national energy tax when unemployment is above 8 percent and rising.
What we need to do now is prepare for the worst and hope for the best. That’s the way to make a better future because in the end this budget isn’t about numbers. It’s about people. But this budget doesn’t prepare us for the future. It robs from it.
America, this budget taxes too much, spend too much and borrows too much. I’m not fooled by this budget and I hope you’re not either.