The tempest over the federal budget has subsided, and the American taxpayer must assess the damage to his or her pocketbook.
Members of Congress now face some tough questions from their constituents on why they voted as they did. This is as it should be, and I welcome the opportunity to explain the reasons I voted against the final version of the budget reconciliation bill.1. Raising taxes is not the solution to cutting the deficit.
Regardless of what most politicians in Washington are saying, we do not need to raise taxes to balance the budget. Data released last week by the Treasury Department support my point. Between 1980 and 1990, federal tax receipts almost doubled, growing from $517 billion in 1980 to $1,031 billion in 1990.
Even without counting the new tax increases in the budget bill, revenues are projected to increase by almost $400 billion over the next five years.
Although receipts from taxes doubled during the past 10 years, federal spending has increased even faster. Between 1980 and 1990, federal spending increased 117 percent, growing from $591 billion in 1980 to $1.251 billion in 1990.
This increase is why a balanced budget has been so elusive. The answer to the deficit problem is to cut spending - not raise taxes.
2. Now is the worst possible time to raise taxes.
Our economy is on the verge of a serious recession. The Wall Street Journal reported on Oct. 10, 1990, that most economists now believe that the economy is already in a recession, and many of them think it will be severe.
The budget bill includes nearly $165 billion in higher taxes. These new taxes will lengthen and deepen the recession and contribute to an already growing inflation rate. With recession come job losses.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that each 1 percent rise in unemployment raises the deficit by about $25 billion, and that each 1 percent decline of GNP raises the deficit by about $6 billion.
Even a modest recession, with unemployment up 2 percent and GNP down 2 percent, would raise the deficit by $62 billion. This amount is much higher than the deficit reduction of $43 billion promised by the budget deal. Unemployed workers pay little tax.
Unprofitable corporations pay none. In a recession, total revenue to the Treasury plummets. We cannot solve our deficit problems by placing recessionary tax increases on a stagnant economy.
3. The new taxes in the budget package are unfair.
While it can be said that no tax is entirely fair in its application, the taxes included in the budget bill are particularly inequitable.
For example, the increase in gasoline tax, though only half what was earlier proposed, is grossly unfair. This tax bases each individual's contribution to federal deficit reduction on how much he or she must drive, not on the ability to pay.
This tax particularly hurts those in rural areas of the nation, such as in Utah, who must drive long distances to and from work. It unfairly burdens these people with a higher share of deficit reduction than those who drive less.
Many of the other taxes included in the deal are equally unfair. Most of these are "hidden" taxes that are not noticed by many taxpayers but adversely affect them nevertheless.
For example, the bill permanently extends the current telephone tax that was due to expire at the end of this year. This "hidden" tax drains over $13 billion from those who pay telephone bills.
4. The budget bill contains few real deficit cuts.
Despite the talk of huge spending cuts mandated by this package, the federal government in 1991 and later years will spend much more than it did in 1990. The only actual cut in spending will be in defense, which decreases less than $3 billion.
The so-called spending cuts are, in reality, nothing more than a reduction of the spending growth originally anticipated.
5. Budget process "reforms" included in the bill will make it harder to "undo" to damage later.
One little-noticed part of the budget package was a set of rules that will change the way Congress addresses the deficit in future years. These rules are designed to make it harder for Congress to increase the deficit by raising spending or lowering taxes.
The clever authors of this provision have created loopholes that will allow spending to grow in certain "emergencies," such as we are now experiencing in the Middle East.
No such loopholes exist where tax reductions are concerned, however, which will make it very difficult for Congress to "undo" the damage of this bill later by lowering taxes to get the economy going again.
This budget package is a loser. It will increase, not reduce, the deficit.