COMMENTARY | On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced that all 42 current Republican Party Senate members signed a pledge to block any legislation coming before their respective chamber of Congress until the Bush tax cuts have been considered. Cloaking the political maneuver in the guise of necessity and national importance, McConnell said that Senate Republicans would simply refuse to work on other measures until the current Bush tax cuts and other federal funding issues were resolved.
But what McConnell and his fellow Republicans did not say is that the Bush tax cuts are not necessary for the government to continue operations or funding, nor did they say that the tax cuts that the Republicans particularly support are those that continue to enhance the bank accounts of America’s most wealthy income earners while adding nearly $800 billion to the federal debt over the next decade.
“With little time left in this congressional session, legislative scheduling should be focused on these critical priorities,” McConnell said in a statement. “While there are other items that might ultimately be worthy of the Senate’s attention, we cannot agree to prioritize any matters above the critical issues of funding the government and preventing a job-killing tax hike.”
What Mitch McConnell craftily leaves out is that the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts that have become so all-important to the GOP affect himself and all but two of his fellow Republicans. According to OpenSecret.org, only nine senators reported income of less than the $250,000 threshold that Democrats want to make the ceiling for continued tax cuts. Of those nine, three (all Democrats) are no longer in the Senate and one (Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan) has no stated income.
In short, all current senators but five (possibly six) are set to be impacted by the imposition of higher taxes if they do not pass legislation extending the Bush tax cuts.
Of course, Republicans continue to push the idea that to not extend the tax cuts above the $250,000 threshold is inherently unfair to the top income earners but also hurts the economy in that it is a “job-killing tax hike.”
Both sides of the argument can trot out support for whether or not the tax cuts help or hinder the economy, but one thing that is undeniable is that corporate profits in the United States set a record in the third quarter of 2010. According to an article in the New York Times, while employment remains stagnant and joblessness is at 9.6 percent (nearly 15 million individuals), corporate America recorded its highest profiting quarter in history at $1.66 trillion.
It is doubtful that any of the 97 percent to 98 percent of America’s income earners and tax payers who make below the $250,000 tax threshold are the beneficiaries of any of those corporate profits, although there is little doubt that many of them are employed by those same corporations. However, that 2-3 percent earning above the threshold most likely does benefit and would benefit from the continued tax cuts.
The Republican senators’ “pledge” to stonewall all other legislation besides the Bush tax cuts and also comes as the Democrats move to push as much as they can through the lower chamber of Congress. One piece of legislation that is being readied for a second run through the House is a continuance of the unemployment benefits extension package, a measure that has already seen defeat by House Republicans (because, they noted, it was not paid for or offset).
In short, while members of the working class of America that now are unemployed due to no fault of their own are denied benefits and extensions of unemployment benefits because certain members of Congress (mostly Republicans) wish to pay for the benefits as they are expended, many of those same Republicans will refuse to even consider legislation coming before them (like the aforementioned House unemployment extensions measure or the unemployment extensions proposal introduced by Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) — who is one of the poorest senators in Washington — late Monday) that would enable millions of Americans to simply pay a few household bills.
And the argument of the “critical issues of funding the government” mentioned by Sen. Mitch McConnell in his pledge makes no sense in that the government will be funded with or without the Bush tax cuts, but it will be funded with far less monies if the tax cuts are continued. But whereas the working class and potentially employed could use every penny of the Bush tax cuts to remain solvent and contribute to a sluggish economy at its most basic level, the wealthy — who had no problem paying the taxes before the breaks — would have little difficulty meeting the tax burden again, not to mention keeping the government deficit from climbing another $800 billion in the coming decade (the escalation of which is another argument used by Republicans when not wishing to fund unemployment extensions).
There are those who make the claim that the Republican Party is a party of, by, and for the wealthy. Democrats, who like to view their party as one that represents the “little guy” or the “common man/woman,” are quick to promote that description. But with pledges like the one issued by every Republican senator on Capitol Hill Wednesday, Democrats can sit back and let the GOP do it themselves.