Friday, October 5, 2007

Boehner Column: "Higher Taxes, Zero Accountability Won’t Cure Washington’s Spending Addiction"

President Ronald Reagan famously said, “We don’t have a trillion-dollar debt because we haven’t taxed enough; we have a trillion-dollar debt because we spend too much.”

Regrettably, Washington’s spending habits have only gotten worse since President Reagan uttered those words and while the Republican-led Congress lowered taxes for working families, married couples (and married couples with children) and small businesses, the new majority in the U.S. House is doing its best to erase our economic success by raising taxes.

Last month, 110,000 jobs were created, and the Department of Labor revised its August jobs report to note the creation of 89,000 jobs. This marks 49 consecutive months of job creation in the U.S. , which is the longest uninterrupted period of job growth on record for our nation. Still, too many American families continue to struggle with the rising cost of living in the United States , especially as the price of energy, home mortgages, and consumer goods continue to increase and eat away at the family budget every month.

The anxieties American families face are deepened every time another tax increase is proposed – in part because we don’t have full accountability and transparency in how Congress spends your tax dollars. Studies show Americans believe about 40 cents of every tax dollar sent to Washington is wasted. They also show an overwhelming majority of Americans believe that lawmakers who request federal funding for projects in their districts (known as an “earmark”) should publicly put their name to that project and be willing to defend it. I believe that if a politician isn’t willing to put his or her name publicly behind a project, the American people shouldn’t have to pay for it.

But its business as usual in Congress where these earmarks are disclosed in some bills – not all – and even then, the disclosure is so murky you can’t pull up a comprehensive list of earmarks and the lawmakers requesting them. Recently, when a powerful Member of Congress was asked why this was so difficult, he responded that it was too bad people would have to work to connect the projects with their sponsors. This is exactly the kind of attitude we need to do-away with in Washington .

Another attitude we need to do-away with is, again in the words of former President Reagan, “If it moves, tax it.”

In the late 1990s, the Republican Congress enacted a ban on Internet taxes that has allowed the American people to capitalize on its growth. Since then, the Internet has driven economic growth and prosperity in ways we never could have imagined. But this tax moratorium will expire in just a few weeks and so far, there’s been no action by the majority in either the U.S. House or Senate to renew the ban or even eliminate e-taxes permanently. That’s sad proof of Mr. Reagan’s words.

Here is a list of just some of the tax increases that have been proposed since January in the U.S. House, as documented recently by the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

  • Reinstating the “marriage penalty” income tax that forced middle-class married couples filing jointly to pay more taxes than if they filed separately;

  • Cutting the per-child tax credit from $1,000 to $500;

  • Reinstating the Death Tax, which is scheduled to meet its own demise in 2009 but will resurrect two years later unless Congress makes this tax’s death permanent;

  • Raising federal cigarette taxes by 156 percent, to $1 per pack;

  • Raising cigar taxes from a 20.7 percent tax on wholesale prices with a 5-cent cap to a 53 percent rate with a $3 cap;

  • Increasing the federal gasoline tax anywhere from 5 cents to 50 cents per gallon;

  • Eliminating the interest deduction for home equity loans;

  • Creating a $50 per ton tax on carbon to be assessed on coal, petroleum products and natural gas to create a fund to combat global warming;

  • The most recent proposal is a war surtax that will be levied on every working American, purportedly to pay for the war. What this really is, though, is a backdoor proposal to cut off funding for our troops bravely serving in Iraq by forcing an unpopular tax increase onto hard-working American families. If this attempt to pull the plug on troop funding succeeds, there will be a stampede by free-spending lawmakers looking to grab those dollars for pork-barrel projects – and unless we enact full accountability and transparency for earmarks, you won’t know how your tax dollars are being spent.

    Right now, I am leading an effort to require public disclosure for all earmarks and to make sure we can openly debate any earmark on the House Floor. I don’t personally use earmarks because I don’t view the federal Treasury as an open checkbook for Washington lawmakers, and I will continue fighting to make sure that you know how we’re spending your hard-earned dollars.

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