Automatic tax hikes? What about spending?
Is it possible to have a tax cut worse than no tax cut? It may be. Leave it to Congress to find a way to make Americans look a gift horse in the mouth.
Republican leaders in the Senate are scrambling to ensure they can muster a majority when their chamber votes on a tax reform bill, sometime before Christmas. Among their efforts is one aimed at lawmakers who worry about increasing the national debt.
Some Democrat senators insist that is their chief reason for opposing the bill. Tax cuts will reduce government revenue, adding to the national debt, they warn. That did not seem to be a concern to them during Barack Obama’s presidency, when the national debt nearly doubled.
Advocates of tax relief hope it will improve the economy to the extent revenues also go up, thus offsetting any direct loss due to lower tax collections. But some senators, apparently to reassure others worried about the debt, say they are willing to add a provision to the tax relief bill. It would provide for automatic tax increases if tax reform fails to result in better revenue for the government.
There are all sorts of reasons to be leery of such a plan. First, of course, is that there never, ever should be automatic tax increases. If they are needed, let Congress approve them — and take the heat for doing so.
Second is how such increases would be triggered. If the idea is to allow tax hikes linked to deficit spending, it should be rejected. Such action would amount to writing a blank check to federal bureaucrats and liberal lawmakers, giving them no incentive to be disciplined in spending.
In other words, big spenders in Washington would have every reason to increase, rather than cut back, on spending — in order to trigger automatic tax increases. Members of Congress should not go along. Let’s pass real tax relief.