Wednesday, January 02, 2013

House GOP Majority Votes No On Tax Cuts

As this term in the House of Representatives wound down, the House voted 257 to 167 to pass the package of tax cuts approved by the Senate in the early morning hours of New Years Day. The bill will now go to the president for his signature. The House Republicans voted against the bill by a 151 to 85 majority, while the Democrats voted for the bill with a 172 to 16 majority.

The Republicans voting against the bill said it was because it didn't include any spending cuts to pay for it, but when those same cuts were approved by them in the Bush administration they also didn't have any spending cuts to pay for them -- and if the bill had included cuts for the richest Americans (making over $450,000 a year) you can bet they would have voted for the it. That means those Republicans were willing to deny tax cuts to over 98% of Americans because rich people didn't get to keep their tax cut. I hope the voters remember that.

I didn't like this bill. Not because it didn't include some good things, because it did have some. The bill stopped the Medicare cuts to doctors, it continued the child earned income deductions, it continued the college tuition tax credit, it raised the tax on capital gains from 15% to 20%, and it continued the federal unemployment benefits. Those are all good things and needed to be done. I just think if the Democrats had held out a little longer (instead of rushing to get an agreement at all costs), they could have gotten all these things and kept the limit of the tax cuts at $250,000 instead of the $450,000 limit that was passed (raising more needed revenues).

I also think they could have used the leverage they had on these tax cuts to force reasonable budget cuts that would not hurt the poor, children, and elderly Americans and also raised the debt ceiling. Now they must enter the fights over budget cuts and raising the debt ceiling without that leverage -- and with the Republicans targeting Medicare, Social Security, and other programs helping ordinary Americans just barely getting by, it's going to take some substantial backbone from President Obama and the congressional Democrats to keep ordinary Americans from being hurt further (a backbone they have yet to show they have).

But that is in the past now. The bill has been passed, and will soon be signed by the president. I accept that. I just hope the Democrats show more fortitude in the coming fights over the debt ceiling and the budget cuts. There is actually much that can be cut from the budget without affecting hurting Americans -- the bloated military budget would be a good place to start (like cutting money going to the military-industrial complex for weapons that don't work and are not needed, and closing many of the more than 800 military bases we have around the world).

The Republicans have said they want to hold the country hostage in the debt ceiling fight to demand cuts in benefits for Medicare and Social Security. There are even things that could be done in these programs without cutting benefits or raising the age to qualify for those programs. We could means test both of them, and we could raise the cap on income subject to the Social Security and Medicare payroll deductions. We could also let the Medicare program negotiate prices with drug companies and medical providers. But what the Democrats must not allow is to have benefits cut for elderly Americans (most of whom simply can't afford that).

It will be interesting to watch what happens in both those impending fights, and we won't have long to wait since they will have to happen soon. The sequestration cuts were only put off for two months, and the debt ceiling must be raised in the next two months or the government will be virtually shut down (and possibly have its credit rating downgraded even further). Can the Democrats hold their ground and protect ordinary Americans? I doubt it, but I sincerely hope I'm wrong about that.

1 comment:

  1. I sincerely hope you are wrong too but I'm afraid not...


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