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Now that recession-warning lights have begun to blink, Democrats should give tax hikes a rest.
As tax-happy Democrats might have noticed, the stock market resembles a kindergartner on a swing set: half-giddy, half-scared and hyperactive. Meanwhile, payrolls sagged by 4,000 positions last month. Not since August 2003 has America created no new jobs. Fifty-two economists in Sept. 13’s Wall Street Journal offered a 36 percent average probability of recession by next September.
Oil hit $81.93 per barrel Wednesday — hardly good news. And the tumultuous home-mortgage industry suffered 243,497 foreclosure listings last month, up 115 percent versus August 2006, RealtyTrac.com reports. This mess triggered 12,000 layoffs, just at lender Countrywide Financial Corp. To prevent tight credit from suffocating the economy, the Fed on Tuesday administered a 0.5 percent federal-funds-rate reduction.
Amid these worrisome omens and genuine human suffering, the last thing America needs is for congressional Democrats to stuff a pillow over the economy’s face. But they can’t control themselves.
“Through 2012, the Democratic Congress’ new budget raises taxes $217 billion,” the National Taxpayers Union’s Pete Sepp calculates. “If no surpluses appear that year, another $175.5 billion tax hike automatically kicks in.”
This $392.5 billion includes a halving of the per-child tax credit, restoration of the marriage penalty, a 50 percent leap in the low-income tax bracket (10 percent under Republicans; 15 percent under Democrats) and the resurrection of the “death tax” — from 0 percent to 55 percent.
Democrats cannot plea that soaring deficits require tax hikes to absorb red ink. Indeed, the federal budget gap narrowed from $413 billion in 2004 to $158 billion today, proving that the best deficit medicine nearly always is to limit taxes and consequently unleash American enterprise. A thinner federal slice of a bigger economic pie usually yields revenues exceeding pre-tax-cut levels.
Democrats cannot deny what happened after President Bush and Capitol Hill Republicans slashed maximum capital gains taxes from 18 percent to 15 percent in 2003. Rather than dwindle $5.37 billion between 2003 and 2006, as the Congressional Joint Tax Committee’s antique, static-analysis model wrongly predicted, revenues actually advanced $53 billion.
Foreign economic ministers understand these lessons and are lowering taxes as if Franklin Roosevelt never lived and Ronald Reagan never died.
“Sweden and Russia last year eliminated their estate taxes because they said the tax was economically counterproductive,” economist Stephen Moore wrote in the Aug. 31 Wall Street Journal. “In Germany under Chancellor Angela Merkel, the corporate tax rate has been reduced to less than 30 percent from 39 percent.” Poland recently chopped its business tax from 27 percent to 19 percent.
Even Hanoi gets it! Thanks to corporate tax relief, “the business environment will become more and more attractive, resulting in increased investment,” Vietnamese tax chief Nguyen Van Ninh told Moore.
While America’s corporate tax levitates at 35 percent, seven European Union nations have lowered business levies this year. The EU-average corporate tax is 24.2 percent.
“Further corporate tax rate cuts are being implemented in Germany, Estonia, Spain and the United Kingdom, and rate cuts are being discussed in the Czech Republic and France,” observes Cato Institute senior fellow Dan Mitchell. “Even the bloated welfare states of France and Sweden have lower corporate rates and generally better corporate tax systems than America.”
Democrats thus resist global pro-market trends, even among progressive governments long on social solidarity and short on “reckless cowboyism.”
But, for most Democrats, these facts and numbers are irrelevant. Taxes are not about merely funding vital government duties and basic public services. They are meant to punish the wealthy, “correct” personal behavior and distribute universal largesse. Thus, Democrats itch to raise taxes on highly lucrative private-equity partnerships, from 15 percent to 35 percent.
True to form, the Democratic Senate voted in August to hike cigarette taxes 156 percent, from 39 cents to $1 per pack. This would ignite a massive explosion in the State Child Health Insurance Program. The Democratic House extended government medicine to kids in families of four earning quadruple the federal poverty line, or $82,600 — twice today’s threshold. The House also redefined “child” as an eligible boy or girl … up to age 25.
While America’s economy clings from a ledge, Democrats dance on its fingertips. When the donkey party promises “change,” it delivers — good and hard.
(New York commentator Deroy Murdock is a columnist media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University. E-mail him at deroy.murdock(at)gmail.com.)