By Senator Roy Blunt
Democrats in the U.S. Senate have a poster they show on the floor every day we're in session. Last Thursday it said, "In 19 days, middle class taxes will go up $2,200 unless the House acts."
The president echoed this sentiment on Dec. 8 during his weekly address when he warned: "middle-class tax cuts are set to expire at the end of the year. Time is running out. . . . if Congress does nothing, every family in America will see their income taxes automatically go up on January 1st. . . . That would be bad for families, it would be bad for businesses, and it would drag down our entire economy."
All of the sudden, the Democrats believe the tax policies of the last dozen years are essential to 98 percent of all Americans who pay income taxes. But you wouldn't have guessed there was universal support for these tax cuts for almost everyone if you listened to the debates in 2001 and 2003.
Every taxpayer got a tax cut in 2001, and those tax cuts were good for the economy and good for families. Congress' action to make the first tax bracket 10 percent instead of 15 percent, double the child tax credit, and deal with the marriage penalty in the tax code made a real difference for a lot of families.
As Peter Ferrara noted in Forbes, the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts "were followed by a record 52 straight months of job creation, producing 8 million new jobs, with the unemployment rate falling to 4.4%. Business investment spending, which had declined for 9 straight quarters, reversed and increased 6.7% per quarter, producing all those new jobs."
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that extending tax rates for all Americans would create nearly 1.8 million jobs and increase the nation's GDP by almost 1.5 percent next year. Maybe that's why former President Bill Clinton joined the calls this summer for Congress to extend all of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, reinforcing that we must "find some way to avoid the fiscal cliff, to avoid doing anything that would contract the economy now."
Raising taxes on the top 2 percent of Americans would raise $68 billion a year. This revenue won't even cover one-third of the annual interest -- $218 billion -- that is owed on our nation's $16 trillion debt. In fact, the president's tax hike would only fund the government for eight days. What does the president propose we do for the other 357 days of the year?
As William McGurn noted in his Wall Street Journal column last week, "Democrats have been hollering that the only people to benefit from the Bush tax cuts were Bill Gates, Wall Street bankers, and the guy with the top hat and monocle who appears on our Monopoly sets," but those claims ignore the fact that these tax cuts are "vital for America's middle class."
Increasing tax rates will hurt the economy, and I would like to extend all of our current tax policies while we work to make the tax code fairer and flatter and find ways to grow the economy. We need more certainty for families in Missouri -- not less. The only difference I seem to have with Democrats in Washington is that I'm for 100 percent of the decade-long tax policies. They're now for 98 percent.