Last week the Senate and House demonstrated again why their approval ratings are so low. The 154 page “fiscal cliff” bill was made available to Senators just three minutes before the vote was taken on the legislation. No one can read 154 pages in three minutes, so it is safe to assume that the legislation was passed without being read.
Then the House brought the lengthy and complicated bill to a vote just 22 hours after the text had been available, meaning a full reading of the legislation was not likely possible. This was a clear violation of the “three day rule” adopted by the 112th Congress, which in the name of transparency ordered the House to make legislation available to the public a full three days before a Floor vote.
Perhaps this race to a vote, amid cries of the end of the world without a solution to the manufactured crisis, explains why an even greater than usual amount of special-interest carve-outs made it into the bill.
Article 1, Section 7 of the US Constitution clearly states that “All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives,” but as has been done many times, the Senate simply attached its bill to an existing House bill and claimed that this Constitutional requirement had been satisfied.
If the process was dishonest and unconstitutional, the content of the bill was even worse.
The “rescue” legislation was packed full of special tax deals for well-connected corporations with the money to hire high-profile lobbyists – usually those who have spent a good deal of time as legislators themselves.
The principle of tax cuts and breaks themselves are not the problem, however. It is incorrect to view any return of tax money to its rightful owner as money taken from the government. Wealth belongs to those who generate it not to government. However, while well-connected special interests like Hollywood and rum manufacturers were being granted targeted tax assistance, the vast majority of Americans were being hit with a significant tax increase in the form of higher payroll taxes. Rather than cut a dime from federal spending, this bill granted breaks to the corporate elites and paid for the “lost revenue” by passing the costs on to the rest of us.
The “fiscal cliff” bill also rescued other corporate interests. Included in the text was a nine-month extension of the 2008 Farm Bill. This is corporate welfare at its worst, spending billions to enrich big corporate farms with direct subsidies at the expense of small farmers — and the taxpayer.
Last week’s last minute deal was the worst of both worlds: higher taxes on nearly all Americans now and a promise to begin thinking about modest cuts in spending growth two months down the road. While there was much hand-wringing over the “draconian” cuts that would have been imposed by sequestration, in fact sequestration would not have cut spending at all. Under the sequestration plan, government spending would increase by $1.6 trillion over the next eight years. Congress calls this a cut because without sequestration spending would increase by $1.7 trillion over the same time frame. Either way it is an increase in spending, however.
I have little hope that a majority of Congress and the President will change their ways and support real spending reductions. Fortunately, increasing numbers of Americans are awakening to the dangers posed by the growth of the welfare-warfare state. Hopefully this movement will continue to grow and force the politicians to reverse course before government spending, taxing, and inflation destroys our economy entirely.