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If You Like Your Tax Day, Republicans Are Letting You Keep Your Tax Day

Tea Party protest

 

Today is April 15, “Tax Day,” the date long reviled by Americans as the date their federal income taxes are due. And it will surprise no one who is paying attention that while tax collections are at record highs, so is spending, the deficit and the national debt.

As our friend Terence P. Jeffrey of CNSNews reported, “The federal government ran a budget deficit of $430 billion for the first half of fiscal year 2015, CBO estimates--$17 billion more than the shortfall recorded in the same span last year,” the CBO said in its Monthly Budget Review for March 2015, which was published April 8. “Both revenues and outlays were about 7 percent higher than the amounts recorded in the first six months of fiscal year 2014."

The biggest source of additional tax revenue for the federal government Jeffery tells us was the individual income tax. In the first six months of fiscal 2014, Americans paid the federal government approximately $585,000,000,000 in individual income taxes. In the first six months of fiscal 2015, Americans paid $642,000,000,000 in individual income taxes—an increase of $57 billion (or 9.7 percent) from fiscal 2014.

In the wake of the Lois Lerner targeting of conservatives and the other revelations about IRS abuses that have been revealed since Obama became president the Internal Revenue Service is less popular than ever.

But if you’re mad at the IRS today your ire is probably directed at the wrong target, because there’s only one branch of government that sets the tax rates, controls the spending and the borrowing that is driving taxes ever upward and that is the United States Congress.

Especially Republican leaders Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, Senate Committee on the Budget Chairman Mike Enzi, House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan and Senator Orrin Hatch, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and most especially Hal Rogers, Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations Hal Rogers and his Senate counterpart the much reviled Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi.

Boehner and McConnell, both before and after the 2014 midterm election have done precious little to lead their Republican Conferences to actually fight spending, the deficit, debt and the federal government’s insatiable appetite for money that follows.

You see, despite the windfall in additional tax revenue, the federal government ran a bigger deficit in the first half of this fiscal year because federal spending increased even more than federal tax revenues.

Total federal outlays climbed from $1,736,000,000,000 in the first half of fiscal 2014 to $1,851,000,000,000 in the first half of fiscal 2015.

And Congress – your Representative and Senators – is responsible for the purse strings and deciding how much gets spent and as a consequence, how much gets paid-off or borrowed.

And the situation and its dire consequences for the future of the country are not new – back in 2010 (and the time of first Tea Party Rebellion) Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Elmendorf said, "U.S. fiscal policy is on an unsustainable path to an extent that cannot be solved by minor tinkering," and former Comptroller General David Walker called the rising costs of government entitlements a "fiscal cancer" that threaten "catastrophic consequences for our country."

In an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal published on February 13, 2011, two conservative Republican congressmen, Jeb Hensarling of Texas and then Congressman, now Governor of Indiana, Mike Pence laid out the problem this way:

Can we tax our way out of this problem? No.

In order to pay for what we are on track to spend under current law, taxes would have to double. This would crush our economy and condemn future generations to a far lower standard of living. That is not an option.

Can we grow our way out? Unfortunately, no.

Although pro-growth policies like simplifying the tax code and lowering rates are critical components of any solution, they alone are insufficient. Mr. Walker estimated it would take double-digit economic growth every year for the next 75 years in order to close the fiscal gap.

Can we continue to borrow our way out of the problem? Borrowing of that magnitude would drive up interest rates to unimaginable levels, crowding out borrowing opportunities for families and businesses. As Greece and other European countries like Spain and Portugal face default for their excess spending, and China lectures us on our fiscal irresponsibility, the idea of borrowing at still higher levels seems inconceivable.

Without spending discipline only one option remains: monetizing the debt, also known as inflation.

Although then Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said repeatedly said that this will not happen on his watch, and current Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen has repeated those assurances, many think it's inevitable given the trillions of dollars the Fed has pumped into the economy since it began its extraordinary economic stimulus efforts.

The solution to the problem of the taxes, spending, deficit and debt that Hensarling and Pence proposed was a Spending Limit Amendment to the Constitution. The amendment floated by Pence and Hensarling would have limited spending to one-fifth of the economy (our historical spending average since World War II). The limit could only be waived by a declaration of war or by a two-thirds congressional vote.

Naturally the idea received zero support from the Capitol Hill Republican leadership and quickly died a quiet death – but the dire predictions Hensarling and Pence outlined have if anything turned out to be optimistic.

The day Hensarling and Pence penned their op-ed the national debt stood at $14,082,712,722,334.93, today it stands at $18,152,023,729,666.57, and it has never gone down during the four years since the idea of a Spending Limitation Amendment to the Constitution was first floated.

Today, as you mail your check to the IRS and rage around the watercooler or coffee shop about the cost of government, just remember the cost of government isn’t what it taxes, it is what it spends. And there’s only one branch of government that controls spending, and that’s Congress.

The only way Congress is ever going to stop spending is for new leadership to be elected who will actually stop spending and end the deficit and debt that are, as former Comptroller General David Walker called it a “fiscal cancer." And if we can’t get new leadership in Congress, then We the People must reconsider the idea of a Spending Limitation Amendment to the Constitution before it is too late and even that measure won’t save us from national bankruptcy.

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