By Dustin Hurst | Watchdog.org
HELENA — Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester just can’t get enough — money for the ever-growing government, that is.
Most of the Montana media focused on Tester’s call for bipartisanship in his address to state lawmakers gathered in a joint session Monday, but another element received little play: the senator’s push for more federal revenue.
The request is interesting because the federal government about two weeks ago approved billions of dollars in new taxes — some to fund general government operations, others to pay for entitlement spending.
“In Washington and here in Helena, we can’t afford to let brinksmanship replace statesmanship,” Tester said. “The fiscal problems that face our country at the federal level can and must be addressed. It is our biggest challenge. Cutting spending and increasing revenue will be necessary if we are going to solve our budgetary woes.”
While Tester preaches a balanced approach to wrestling with the federal budget and the red ink in which it swims, lately he has leaned heavily on the side of revenue-raising.
Tester supported the so-called “fiscal cliff” deal, which thwarted tax hikes for millions of Americans and blocked deep cuts to government programs. As most D.C. spin doctors will preach, the deal protected 99 percent of American taxpayers from rate hikes.
Examining the other side of the fluff, though, reveals the imbalance of Tester’s approach.
The fiscal cliff deal, passed by the Senate 89 to 9 and the U.S. House 255 to 167, raised from 35 percent to 39.6 percent the income tax rate on workers bringing home more than $400,000 annually The Congressional Budget Office projects the move will generate about $620 billion through the next decade.
Consider, though, that the fiscal cliff deal includes a mere $15 billion in spending cuts. For those fuzzy with math, that’s about 0.4 percent of 2012 federal spending, or $41 in tax hikes for every dollar in cuts.
How’s that for balance?
That only tells half the story, though. Tester supported the 2010 Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare or the national health reform law. On Jan. 1, billions in new tax hikes enacted by that law took effect.
A new tax on certain investments, plus a hike on the rate workers earning more than $200,000 pay annually combine for the largest of the revenue-raises that began New Year’s Day. Collectively, those two levies will generate more than $318 billion over the next decade.
The medical device tax also began Jan. 1. This fun tax — so bad even some Senate Democrats who supported Obamacare wanted to delay its implementation — adds a government surcharge to pacemakers, MRI machines, wheelchairs, artificial joints and many more devices used in the medical field.
This tax, which industry analysts said would cost between 14,000 and 43,000 jobs, will generate $30 billion through the next decade.
While these taxes may sound rough, there’s more: Between now and Jan. 1, 2018, the Affordable Care Act enacts a few more tax hikes, costing hundreds of billions of dollars.
Some might point out the health reform law also boasts $716 billion in cuts to Medicare through the next 10 years. Although true, the government robs Peter to pay Paul. The cuts may sound nice, but any money saved actually helps fund health-reform initiatives.
Again, no balance.
Tester, like any good federal lawmaker, told state legislators of the need for large-scale tax reform, again throwing his support behind the Simpson-Bowles plan. That plan would, of course, raise at least a trillion in new revenue, too.
That’s exactly what Democrats want, though. According to report by The Hill, Democrats are looking for at least $1 trillion in new tax revenue to couple with the mandatory spending cuts Republicans demand.
Even if lawmakers find a way to thread the needle and strike some sort of grand bargain, the scale already tilts in favor of taxing the rich to find money for anything and everything.
Contact: [email protected] or @DustinHurst via Twitter.
— Edited by John Trump at [email protected]