Obama presidency on life support
Last week, Gallup released a poll indicating that if the election were held today and President Obama won only states where he has a positive approval rating, he’d be packing his bags for the unemployment line. Indeed, Conn Carroll of the Washington Examiner estimates that “Obama would lose the 2012 election to the Republican nominee 323 electoral votes to 215.”
Will the dim prospects for an Obama second term subject us all to a campaign of half-truths and smears? Conservatives in Congress should expect Obama to use the bully pulpit to blame them for everything from lousy unemployment numbers to congressional gridlock on his class warfare legislative agenda.
Rep. Woodall and tax reform
Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Ga.) last week questioned Douglas Elmendorf, director of the Congressional Budget Office, and made a strong case for tax reform. Woodall pointed out that if you study CBO’s “Historical Effective Federal Tax Rates,” you find that “if you are in the bottom 40 percent of income earners in this country, then you actually profit from the American income tax system.” The tax code allows the federal government to create dependency in low-income Americans, giving them more in government money than they pay.
Rep. Woodall also pointed to CBO’s “Trends in Federal Tax Revenues and Tax Rates” for the idea that increased income tax rates do not lead to increased revenues. He argued that during the Carter and Ford administrations, this country had a tax bracket for job creators of 70 percent, yet revenues were at a lower than average percentage of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the United States when compared to the Reagan years. President Ronald Reagan worked with Rep. Jack Kemp, Sen. Bill Roth and liberal House Speaker Tip O’Neil to lower marginal tax rates. Woodall concluded that “the higher tax rates lead to lower revenues and the lower tax rates correspond to higher revenues.”
Woodall concluded by pointing out that playing with the tax code to reduce the deficit is not addressing the core problem—namely, that “spending is the problem.” Three Cheers to Rep. Rob Woodall for pointing out that America does not have a problem of low taxation; America has a problem of too much government spending.
Good and bad of new highway bill
The House will soon consider a five-year, $260 billion highway bill, and it’s expected to contain some good reforms for conservatives. First, it will consolidate or eliminate almost 70 duplicative or wasteful. And transportation “enhancements,” which in the past mandated that one out of 10 federal highway dollars go to bike paths and highway beautification programs, are eliminated.
The bill also isn’t expected to contain earmarks to fund the future “Bridge to Nowhere” or other earmarked projects that tend to drive up the bottom-line cost to the taxpayer. Finally, this effort will provide expand oil and gas drilling. These are all decent reforms.
There are a few bad, and even ugly, provisions in the highway bill. This bill retains current funding levels, meaning that House Republicans have refused to cut spending on highways. If not now, when? Members of both parties are perpetuating the idea that the federal government, not the states, should be primarily responsible for highway spending.
Furthermore, this bill is missing one provision essential for any true conservative reform—the suspension of Davis-Bacon labor wage rates for highway programs. Davis-Bacon is a federal law that mandates a “prevailing wage” on all public works projects.
House Republicans didn’t even try to suspend this pro-union law that will cost the taxpayers billions in additional costs for the bloated wages of these unionized workers. This may doom the effort by House Republicans to sell this bill to wary conservatives.
Term limits for career politicians
The Senate passed the STOCK Act, a bill to force transparency for members of Congress’ stock portfolios in the name of ending insider trading. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) offered a Sense of the Senate amendment last week to the STOCK Act in support of a constitutional amendment to establish term limits for representatives and senators. It may be time for Congress to take some actions to end the practice of both Republicans and Democrats looking at the federal government as a career.
No more earmarks
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) has teamed up with Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) to offer an amendment to the STOCK Act permanently ending congressional earmarking. Earmarking special home-state projects is a waste. The federal government needs to get out of the business of funneling projects to those who contribute to senators and representatives.