I can’t think of an issue that more perfectly captures the national debate than the one right now regarding the expiration of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. At the end of this year, current tax rates will expire and taxes will go up if nothing is done. The powerful Way and Means Committee, the chief tax writing committee in Congress of which I am a member, has already taken the lead and passed through the House of Representatives yet another extension of current rates for all taxpayers.
Some would have you believe this debate is about pitting rich and poor against each other. In truth, however, the expiration of current tax rates (and our subsequent plunge over the fiscal cliff) would have dire consequences for everyone, particularly the middle class. To be sure, failure to extend current rates would prove calamitous for our already fragile economy.
Recent surveys of small businesses have shown that economic uncertainty is hurting our fiscal recovery. From new, unnecessary regulations and taxes imposed by the President’s healthcare law to executive agency rule-making, almost no sector of the economy has been left untouched. And, as I travel throughout the 24th District, the primary message I receive from local small businesses is they want to know that their success will not be punished by the federal government.
Whether it’s a local manufacturer, a healthcare professional, or small mom and pop shop, they all seem to agree: The federal government needs to get out of the way. They talk of how they are unable to expand their operations and make hiring plans because of lingering uncertainty. They are unsure of new taxes and regulations the current administration is contemplating and they want current rates to be extended, if not made permanent.
The uncertainty fostered by this debate surrounding tax rates has brought to a head a critical issue that has momentum both on Capitol Hill and around the country, including the 24th District: the need for comprehensive tax reform. If achieved, comprehensive tax reform for individuals, families, and businesses can and will unleash a robust recovery in the American economy. What does reform mean? This means lowering all rates, eliminating most deductions, and simplifying the code into fewer tiers.
Comprehensive tax reform is a win-win for all involved. For individuals and families, this means fewer hours preparing tax forms and more discretionary income. For small businesses, this means less time spent with accountants and more time planning expansion and hiring. And for advocates of smaller, more accountable government, this means far fewer loopholes and a less intrusive IRS.
The fiscal cliff is something we must address by extending current rates in the near term. But it also allows us to have a debate about tax reform and the proper size of government. Does anyone really believe that the current tax code is desired by and beneficial to job creators and families? A tax code that requires an army of tax professionals to navigate does no one any good.
Yes, loopholes should be closed. Yes, most deductions will be eliminated. But with our economy slowly plodding along, families struggling to keep their heads above water, and American companies at a competitive disadvantage, I can’t think of a better time or reason to enact bold tax reform that lowers rates, simplifies the code, and brings clarity to a tax system that has grown out of control.
There is no doubt that Congress must avert the fiscal cliff. If, however, the goal continues to be punting the problem for another year, we will have missed a clear opportunity to make reforms that will help American families and businesses get back on the path to prosperity.
Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.
As the year draws closer to an end, I wish all the residents of the 24th District a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. It is my hope that your year has been filled with joy and that your holiday season can be spent with loved ones, friends and family. Many, unfortunately, will not be able to see their loved ones this Christmas, particularly our service men and women stationed overseas. They have made many sacrifices in being apart from their families so we can continue to enjoy our freedom this holiday season. Let us join in their families' prayers for a speedy and safe reunion.
Christmas is a unique time of thanksgiving and reflection. This year, I am thankful for a brief moment at home with my wife and family to celebrate the meaning of Christmas that "unto us a child is born." I am grateful for the many of you who will offer countless acts of love to those in need in our community during the holiday season. And I am honored for the opportunity to continue serving the 24th District in Congress.
Again, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.
The 24th District of Texas has lost one of our own in the Global War on Terror. Staff Sergeant Houston M. Taylor of Hurst died on October 13th in Afghanistan while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Taylor served with the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry regiment, 25th Infantry Division. He was married to his childhood sweetheart and a father of two children.
I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Staff Sergeant Taylor. There are no words to do justice to the honor with which he served his country. He made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends in this time of loss.
Marchant: Trade deals should be on a fast track to passage Star-Telegram
By Kenny Marchant
Special to Star-Telegram
Last week President Barack Obama sent Congress the long-delayed trade deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. The trade agreements will provide the U.S. -- and Texas in particular -- bold solutions to economic recovery.
There is an excellent case for the trade deals to pass. Simply put, the trade agreements create more jobs, increase exports and broaden economic growth.
At a time when U.S. unemployment hovers above 9 percent -- including 8.5 percent in Texas -- engines of job growth are needed. As the independent International Trade Commission points out, the three trade agreements would increase U.S. exports by $13 billion. Such growth could create approximately 250,000 new jobs in America, according to the president's measure.
While more jobs are good news for the country as a whole, Texas in particular stands to benefit from increased trade. In today's globalized economy, Texas depends more than ever on world markets.
Exports of manufactured goods alone support an estimated 732,000 jobs in Texas, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. The trade deals are expected to boost jobs in Texas powerhouse industries such as manufacturing, agriculture and chemicals, to name a few.
Businesses in the Dallas-Fort Worth area are positioned for big gains. DFW Airport, one of the world's leading trade gateways, already handles almost 65 percent of all international air cargo in Texas. The trade agreements would increase shipments of goods from DFW to some of the most lucrative Latin American and Asian markets.
Trade benefits all shapes and sizes of businesses. In 2008, for example, 22,294 export firms in Texas were small and medium-sized enterprises with fewer than 500 employees. That translates to the fourth highest number of export firms in the country. With enhanced capacity to sell goods and services to Colombia, Panama and South Korea, the number of small and medium-sized businesses -- the backbone of America's economy -- should only increase.
No matter the business size, open markets make the United States a significantly more competitive trading partner. As the trade deals languished in Washington over the last several years, global competitors raced ahead: the European Union struck a trade deal with South Korea, a Canada-Colombia pact took force, and emerging economies -- notably Brazil, China and India -- aggressively courted new markets. If Congress fails to pass the trade agreements, America risks being left behind as other countries strike new trade alliances.
Lessons from history make plain that economic isolationism inflicts serious damage to our domestic economy and severely disrupts the global economic system. Look no further than the Smoot-Hawley tariff of the 1930s, which increased trade barriers in a particularly fragile economy, and led to disastrous results and contributed to the Great Depression. Protectionism, whether in the form of high tariffs or stalled trade deals, is a false comfort that not only fails to spur economic growth, but in fact sets us backward.
It may be tempting to look inward during periods of economic slowness, but it is during such periods that countries benefit most from economic boosts available through trade. The International Trade Commission estimates that the three trade pacts will increase U.S. gross domestic product by nearly $10 billion. The beneficial impact will be particularly relevant to Dallas-Fort Worth, one of the nation's leading commercial hubs.
While the trade agreements are no silver bullet to fix the economy, they put America on the right path. I applaud those who have long pushed for the agreements, notably Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas and former Dallas Mayor and current U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk. But unless Congress quickly passes the trade deals, America will be senselessly deprived of a proven path toward economic recovery.
Probe Sought Into Disability Delays
Wall Street Journal
By: Damian Paletta
Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday called for the Social Security Administration's inspector general to investigate whether the agency's managers recently ordered judges and other employees to delay disability benefits so they could meet bureaucratic goals.
The subcommittee's request came in response to a Sept. 30 Wall Street Journal article saying that managers had instructed administrative law judges and others not to close any cases between Sept. 26 and Sept. 30. The agency wouldn't count cases closed that week toward the goals because of a quirk in the federal calendar.
Hitting the goals is important for managers as they can determine bonuses and promotions. The delay meant that thousands of Americans who had applied for disability assistance would have to wait at least an additional week for their benefits.
"If this intentional work slowdown story is true, this behavior is an abuse of the taxpayer dollars that support the program, a neglect of the Americans that depend on these critical benefits, and raises serious questions about those charged with leading this important program," the Republicans wrote in a letter to Social Security Administration inspector general Patrick O'Carroll.
A Social Security Administration spokesman said the agency was likely to change its policy and no longer have isolated weeks that didn't factor into the fiscal calendar. It also planned to cooperate fully with the investigation, the spokesman said.
The Social Security Disability Insurance system has more than 10 million beneficiaries. Applications are up sharply in recent years because of high unemployment and an aging population. More than 3 million people are projected to apply this year and nearly 750,000 have applied and await a decision.
The letter was signed by 22 Republicans, including House Ways and Means Committee chairman Dave Camp (R., Mich.) and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.).
They asked Mr. O'Carroll to investigate management oversight in seven states mentioned in the article and to check for a pattern of managers instructing "employees to manipulate work loads for personal gains."
Last week, a Social Security Administration spokesman said that "based on available data, it does appear some judges are holding cases...which is counter to our policy. We regret this occurrence."
But several judges said they were ordered to hold cases by managers, and other Social Security Administration employees said they were given similar directives by superiors.
The Spend Now, Tax Later Jobs Bill
Wall Street Journal
By Alan Reynolds
The president's "Plan for Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction" mainly hinges on persuading Congress to trade $447 billion in temporary payroll tax cuts and spending increases—the "jobs plan"—for permanent income-tax increases of $150 billion a year. Mr. Obama also calls on the 12-member congressional super committee to undertake "comprehensive tax reform," which he defines in peculiar fashion as trading lower deductions for higher rates.
According to the Sept. 19 White House fact sheet, "The President calls on [the super committee] to undertake comprehensive tax reform, and lays out five principles for it to follow: 1) lower tax rates; 2) cut wasteful loopholes and tax breaks; 3) reduce the deficit by $1.5 trillion; 4) boost job creation and growth; and 5) comport with the "Buffett Rule" that people making more than $1 million a year should not pay a smaller share of their income in taxes than middle-class families pay."
But the administration's tax plan violates these principles. It raises rather than lowers tax rates, shrinks tax deductions to pay for more spending, makes no believable contribution to economic growth, has nothing specific to say about the Buffett Rule, and allocates a third of the proposed $1.5 trillion tax increase over the next decade to such miscellany as the temporary payroll tax break, more subsidies for state and local government jobs, and prolonged unemployment benefits.
Nearly all of Mr. Obama's new tax increases are identical to those in his failed budgets of 2011 and 2012. But the repackaging of stale ideas is partly concealed by intermingling the phasing-out of deductions and exemptions with allowing the Bush tax rates to expire, thus increasing the top two tax rates to 36% and 39.6% from 33% and 35%. This intermingling gives the false impression that $866 billion in projected additional revenue comes from raising the top tax rates alone.
The Treasury Department's more candid explanation of these same proposals in the 2011 budget estimated that raising the top two tax rates would bring in only an extra $36.4 billion a year from 2011 to 2020, which adds up to little more than $400 billion from 2012 to 2021. The administration's 2011 proposal to raise the tax rate on capital gains and dividends to 20% from 15% on upper incomes was estimated to raise an even punier $10.5 billion a year. But the 3.8% surtax in ObamaCare already raised those tax rates to 18.8% to finance health-insurance subsidies, leaving no meaningful revenue from that source.
In other words, most of that large, $866 billion 10-year tax hike comes from phasing out personal exemptions and deductions. These are not "tax breaks that small businesses and middle-class families don't get," as the president claimed on Monday in his Rose Garden remarks. The phase-outs apply to the same exemptions and deductions enjoyed by those earning less than $250,000, including deductions for mortgage interest, charitable contributions, and state income taxes.
Mr. Obama's second biggest tax increase, supposedly worth $410 billion over 10 years according to the fact sheet, comes from further reducing "the value of itemized deductions and other tax preferences to 28% for those with high income." The phasing out itemized deductions for upper-income taxpayers would shrink those deductions by as much as 80%, so this additional cap would limit any remaining deductions to 28 cents on the dollar. The combination would be severe. Ask any charity.
As for corporate taxes, Mr. Obama said in the Rose Garden that "We can lower the corporate rate if we get rid of all these special deals." But his plan does not include a lower corporate rate. Instead it earmarks the revenue from eliminating any loopholes and "special deals" to pay for the $447 billion jobs bill.
This brings us to the president's puzzling remarks about "the Buffett Plan," which has no clear connection to anything in his own plan. Mr. Obama has said that anyone who thinks "somebody who's making $50 million a year in the financial markets [i.e., Warren Buffett] should be paying 15 percent on their taxes, when a teacher making $50,000 a year is paying more than that" should "have to defend that unfairness. . . . They ought to have to answer for it."
Warren Buffett's large capital gains (mostly unrealized) and token $100,000 salary are by no means typical. IRS statistics show those earning more than $1 million paid 28.9% in federal income taxes in 2009, compared with 24.6% for those earning from $200,000 to $500,000 and 11.6% for those earning from $50,000 to $75,000.
However, if Mr. Obama is seriously suggesting that marginal tax rates should be the same for the working teacher's salary as for the retired teacher's capital gain, then he may be flirting with a rerun of George McGovern's 1972 presidential campaign theme that, "Money made by money should be taxed at the same rate as money made by men."
Unlike Mr. McGovern, though, Mr. Obama has not yet proposed a capital gains or dividend tax higher than 20%. If the rhetorical Buffett Rule has any meaning at all, it appears to be nothing more than a presidential hint to the congressional super committee that he would like them to propose (as he has not) that incomes above $1 million face a 28% tax on capital gains and dividends.
The trouble is that such a Buffett Rule would quite certainly reduce rather than enlarge federal revenue. That's because we know from experience that a 28% tax on selling stock or property greatly reduces the amount offered for sale. Wealthy people then sit on more unrealized capital gains rather than subjecting themselves to a stiff tax penalty on selling those assets. The 28% tax on long-term capital gains brought in only $36.9 billion a year from 1987 to 1997, according to the Treasury Department, while the 15% tax brought in $96.8 billion a year from 2004 to 2007.
Putting aside the seemingly empty threat of a Buffett Plan tax on capital gains, the president's new-old plan to raise income taxes on families and small businesses earning more than $250,000—to pay for temporary tax gimmicks and extra spending—is just stale wine in a new bottle.
Any plan that would impose permanently higher tax rates on income to pay for temporarily lower tax rates on payrolls is no stimulus or jobs plan under any sort of economics. Neither is a tax-financed extension of unemployment benefits. It's a tax-and-spend plan, and a bad one.
Mr. Reynolds, a senior fellow with the Cato Institute, is the author of "Income and Wealth" (Greenwood, Press 2006).
How Do Taxes Generate Jobs?
Investor's Business Daily Editorial
Obamanomics: Government spending failed on jobs, so the president has shifted to Plan T: taxes, including limiting mortgage interest and other deductions — plus still more spending. His unlikely-to-pass plan is 100% politics.
When an angry Barack Obama repeatedly demanded at a joint session of Congress last week that lawmakers "pass this jobs bill," he knew their answer would be no. But at the time, no one outside the White House knew the game the president was playing.
In one of the most deceitful ploys ever attempted against the American people, President Obama kept it to himself that he was planning a full-frontal assault on tax deductions to "pay for" nearly $450 billion in new stimulus.
Individuals earning more than $200,000 annually and married couples taking in more than $250,000 would see restrictions on itemized deductions for mortgage interest, charitable giving, and state and local taxes. Coming out of the blue as a high-unemployment economy threatens a double-dip recession, these tax increases define the term "nonstarter."
Obama also wants to tax "carried interest" at the rate of ordinary income instead of at the lower capital gains rate — a class warfare attack on the profits of venture capitalists, private equity specialists and other investors that raises just $18 billion, a fraction of the cost of the bill. The president obviously attributes no value to such investors in the private jobs sector.
Club for Growth executive director David Keating tells IBD of "some remarkable conference calls in recent months with CEOs" he's listened in on. "They see job creators being viewed as just targets, sources of government revenues," Keating relates. "And so, their money is frozen on the sidelines."
Obama also smacks the oil and gas industry with $40 billion in new taxes over a decade through drilling deduction restrictions. As a Wood Mackenzie study commissioned last year by the oil industry warned, $5 billion in annual tax increases would reduce domestic oil production by 400,000 barrels a day, destroy 170,000 American jobs by 2014 and lose $128 billion in government revenues over about 15 years.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., rejected the Obama tax increases, but expressed hope that Congress could "peel off the things that we can actually agree on," like payroll tax cuts.
Democratic talking points say "no way": House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi roared that the Obama bill should not be voted on in pieces; White House political adviser David Axelrod told ABC News the legislation is "not an a la carte menu" open to negotiation.
What's more, the president's speech itself was delivered as a gruff ultimatum, with its harsh, repeated insistence that Congress "pass this bill," arguing that it was already a compromise.
Big tax increases clearly will not pass with the economy in the doldrums. But this collection of job-killing new taxes and yet-more stimulus spending is designed not to pass, but to hoodwink 2012 voters into thinking obstructionist Republicans — not a big-government president and his party — are to blame for the economy.