Democrats have their finger on the button and are just waiting for the opportunity to push it.
As the presidential campaign enters its final stages, there will be increased debate over budget priorities and how they will be paid for. Many commentators and political leaders, including Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, believe that tax increases are needed to restore near-term budget balance and finance longer-term entitlement growth.
These claims fail budget arithmetic and economics. Worse, they raise serious questions about the nation's broad fiscal policies and its commitment to economic growth.
The tax code changes enacted in 2001 and 2003 are scheduled to expire at the end of 2010. If they do, statutory marginal tax rates will rise across the board; ranging from a 13% increase for the highest income households to a 50% increase in tax rates faced by lower-income households.
Liberal democrats, devoid of any other strategies, are going to pull the only lever they've ever known. Does anyone actually believe they have a clue as to what is required to restore our economy's ability to grow and create jobs?
Proponents of bigger government invariably argue that allowing all or some of President Bush's tax cuts to expire is necessary in the near term to balance the federal budget, and necessary in the longer term to finance the retirement and health-care promises made to the baby-boom generation. But a tax increase is neither wise nor necessary.
As has so often been true in the past, the economic damage caused by the tax increases and tax avoidance behavior will prevent the promised revenues from being realized. At the same time, the promise of higher revenues will encourage Congress to continue its profligate spending. As a result, a tax increase won't lower the budget deficit.
The current economic slowdown will increase the federal budget deficit this year and, in all likelihood, next year as well. But as the economy enters its recovery phase, raising taxes would choke off the recovery. The right policy, for both the economy and the budget, would be to make current tax rates permanent well before the scheduled increase. Giving investors greater certainty that current tax rates will be maintained will spur investment and aid the economic recovery, as it did in 2003. Federal budget balance will be achieved once the economy is again operating on all its cylinders.