Straight Talk for the Super Committee

Illustration by Emily Metcalf
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Illustration by Emily Metcalf

It has been 12 months since the American people spoke resoundingly at the polls against overtaxing, overspending, and overborrowing, but memories can be short in Washington.
All it takes is for a couple of politicos and the so-called “mainstream” media to denigrate the Tea Party and the freshman congressional class–and urge compromise–and you have the spectacle of some Members of Congress hiding under the neutral-sounding “revenue raising” banner and urging the so-called “Super Committee” to raise taxes.

Throw in some character assassination of those holding the line against spending and higher taxes and you have a potential stampede on Capitol Hill that rivals the flight of a herd of buffalo in an old Western movie.


But those Members of Congress who bow to the pressure of more spending and higher taxes will encounter serious trouble from the voters–which President Obama dismissively described as “bitter” as they “cling to guns and religion.”

The American people have shown time and again that they don’t suffer from amnesia; if double crossed by the same old Washington crowd, Americans are not likely to forgive and forget.

Many politicians forget that the American people always remember.

And many politicians also think that the American people will fall for euphemisms (a fancy word for lies) such as “revenue enhancement.” That’s another mistake. Every time a politician or a journalist refuses to call something what it is–in this case, raising taxes–the American people know that someone is trying to pull the wool over their eyes.

So here is some straight talk.

Members of Congress sitting on the Supercommittee–officially the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, which was created in August by the Budget Control Act–should be on notice that if they propose raising taxes when they submit their deficit-cutting recommendations later this month, their problem will be with the American people.

America’s problem is not that our taxes are too low, but that spending by the federal government is too high.

Members of Congress who call themselves conservative know that tax increases weaken the economy. They should not waver out of fear of being demagogued by liberals, including President Obama.

The case is strong against the snake oil President Obama has been selling on the road for weeks.

Conservatives should make this case with force. We should relish demonstrating how President Obama continues to press for those taxes that would do the most job-killing damage — higher tax rates on small businesses, investors, and savers.

Raising the top tax rates might make sense to those beholden to the Occupy Wall Street mentality, which believes that the rich must be punished. But when a growing economy with job growth is the goal, advocating this policy is bizarre and self-defeating.

In view of his background and his goals, it is understandable that President Obama sympathizes with the left wing mob wreaking havoc in Oakland and other cities across our nation. But it makes no sense when a conservative from middle America begins to mouth nostrums about inequality.

Conservatives, of course, must push back against absurd claims by President Obama and others that conservatives or Republicans just want to keep taxes on the rich low. Conservative Members of Congress should make the case again and again that principled conservatives, especially those in the media-vilified Tea Party, don’t want government protecting the rich. On the contrary.

Most people I know wouldn’t mind becoming rich themselves, but they want to do so by their own effort and spirit. What these Americans find offensive is that some would become rich–or richer–by buddying up to the politically powerful. That’s what happens, for example, when the government picks a company to subsidize because it likes its product or because company executives know and kow-tow to people in high places. That’s Solyndra.

Conservatives care about freedom.

And they care about those who use the opportunities of this great nation, combined with their own hard work and talents, to become better off for themselves and their children and grandchildren.

And even more, conservatives care about the process that leads to wealth creation, because that process also leads to more jobs and higher incomes for others.

Liberals want to separate the taxation of the wealthy from the processes that lead to wealth and job creation. The economy just doesn’t work that way.

Another fact that those serving on the Super Committee should consider as they ponder how to cut the deficit is that the problem with future budget deficits is not a shortage of revenues, but too much spending.

Federal revenues in normal times average about 18.5 percent of our economy. Revenues are deeply depressed today due to the recession and useless stimulus programs, but revenues will recover as the economy recovers. In contrast, while spending is traditionally around 20 percent of the economy, today it stands at 24.3 percent. Although it is projected to decline somewhat as the economy improves and war spending declines, spending will take off again soon as Social Security and Medicare spending increases.

Spending is out of line and is going to get much worse under current policy. Conservatives have no reason to agree to higher taxes just so Washington can spend more.

This battle is about both getting spending under control and limiting the size and scope of government.

Simply stated, more taxes means more government.

And make no mistake, this is what will happen. Liberals will promise spending cuts–they will even promise $3 or $4 in spending cuts for every $1 in raised taxes. Only, these spending cuts will never, ever materialize. This happened under President Reagan and has happened since, and will happen again. It will be just like that beloved TV special we all watched last week at Halloween. The Lucy Van Pelt liberals will take the ball away and the conservatives will end up like Charlie Brown.

We at the Heritage Foundation stand with the 33 Senators who last week sent a letter to the members of the Super Committee, asking that their recommendations meet the following criteria:

· “Balance our budget within ten years;
· “Place entitlements on a path to fiscal solvency;
· “Comprehensive tax reform that lowers rates and promotes economic growth, with no net tax increase; [and]
· “Avoid a further downgrade of our credit rating.”

Though the Senators left out a crucial fifth criterion — fully funding defense to protect America — theirs is an important clear statement to which I subscribe.

I encourage you to add your name to this letter and stand with the brave lawmakers who are standing up for principle and fighting for real fiscal reform, not increasing taxes in the interest of preemptive “compromise.”

Click here to add your name to The Heritage Foundation’s open letter on the Super Committee. Your signature will be automatically registered when you click.

Edwin J. Feulner is the President of The Heritage Foundation


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