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If a Tax Increase is Key to Any Deal, Why Didn’t Democrats Raise Taxes Any of the Last Six Times they Raised the Debt Limit?

Morgen on July 11, 2011 at 6:23 pm

Before getting to the answer, which is pretty obvious, here is the history of legislation on the debt ceiling since the President entered office in January 2009. Courtesy of the Congressional Research Service (pdf):

The debt limit rose a third time in less than a year to $12,104 billion with the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 on February 13, 2009 (ARRA; H.R. 1), which was signed into law on February 17, 2009 (P.L. 111-5).

The House’s adoption of the conference report on the FY2010 budget resolution (S.Con.Res. 13) on April 29, 2009, triggered the automatic passage of H.J.Res. 45 to raise the debt limit to $13,029 billion. In August 2009, Treasury reportedly said that the debt limit would be reached in mid-October, although it later stated that the limit would not be reached until December 2009. H.R. 4314, passed by the House on December 16, 2009, and by the Senate on December 24, raised the debt limit to $12,394 billion when the President signed the measure (P.L. 111-123) on December 28. On January 28, the Senate passed an amended version of H.J.Res. 45, which the House passed on February 4 and the President signed on February 12 (P.L. 111-139), raising the limit to $14,294 billion.

And for good measure, here is an edited table from the same report which lists all the debt ceiling increases since the Democrats won back a congressional majority in 2006:

So that’s 3 times for a total increase of $2.979 trillion just since the President’s inauguration, and a total of 6 times for an increase of $5.6 trillion while Democrats were in full control of the legislative branch. One guess as to how many of these times they insisted – for the sake of the children – on tax increases as part of any deal to increase the limit. Oh, they’ve raised plenty of taxes since then, but of course not once did the President or anyone from the Democratic leadership in Congress stand up and insist on tax increases in conjunction with extending the debt ceiling. Not once. From what I can tell they never even danced around the subject, preferring instead to slip trillions of dollars of increases into things like the Recovery Act, or as “deem and pass” rules attached to regular budget measures.

Funny how now that Republicans control the House the President is suddenly so insistent that tax increases be included as part of any deal. It’s all about fairness and shared sacrifice, when the only thing our brave leader sacrificed the past few years is our children’s future.

I think the GOP can be faulted for not being clear enough on this point, but the only way any tax adjustments should be on the table is if they are part of a fundamental re-structuring of entitlements or the tax code. Think Paul Ryan’s budget or even some of the recommendations of the President’s own deficit commission. Frankly, I think a slight increase in the upper tax bracket would be a reasonable trade for enacting Ryan’s Medicare and Medicaid reforms. But it will never happen because the only thing the President is serious about is his own chance of re-election in 2012, and it’s too late for changes of this scale before the (spurious) deadline anyway.

No, the can is going to be kicked down the road once again. But maybe – and ominously – for the last time.

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Category: Politics |

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