What ever happened to tax increases?

What ever happened to tax increases?  They seem to have vanished.

For the last two years we heard a number of politicians promise to raise our taxes.  They vowed to raise taxes on most Americans.  Oh, they did not say “raise taxes”.. They said they would let the Bush tax cuts expire. Well, if you don’t renew tax cuts you automatically raise taxes.

Other politicians actually talked openly of hiking taxes. They said they wanted to tax the rich more and redistribute that money to the ailing middle class.  As well as to the poorer classes.

Lately we have not heard much about tax increases. We have not heard much about letting the Bush cuts expire.  If you go to candidates’ web sites you won’t find much about this. Congressguys are not jabbering about this either.  Why do you suppose that is?

These days we get promises to repair the economy.  We get promises to rescue people who were conned by mortgage lenders into taking out loans they could not repay.

Now we get promises to modernize and simplify the tax code.

We get claims that millionaires pay lower taxes than nurses, teachers and truck drivers.  (When you run for high office you can say the moon is made of blue cheese and get away with it.)

And now we even get some promises of tax cuts for “working Americans”.  Tax cuts!  From the folks who just a few months ago cursed the tax cuts we already have. One candidate promises tax relief “for 150 million workers”. Says the Bush tax cuts were not enough for them. And of course candidates are promising more “fairness” in the tax code.

So, we are no longer hearing promises to raise the taxes on most of us.  No longer hearing the promise to let all the Bush tax cuts expire.  Instead we hear some talk of cutting taxes.

What is going on?

The economy is in a funk.  And these candidates know that raising taxes on a slowing economy is not too smart.

They also know that a lot of voters understand this.

They also know that by mid-summer we may be in a recession.  And that they would be regarded as idiots if they told us the cure for recession is raising taxes.

And so, they have to change the message.  They begin by promising more fairness.  They begin by saying the tax cuts never benefitted most Americans.  (They did.)  And that the time is ripe to shift those tax cuts to all those other Americans who were slighted.

Where will they go from here?  They will go wherever the economy goes.

Hey, by October they may be promising to cut our taxes.

For the moment their talk of cutting taxes for “working Americans” and for “fairness” and for “150 million workers” is to appeal to voters who think they are getting screwed by the tax code. They want to pit those who feel they are not rich against the rich.

Their talk is not yet about how tax cuts will improve the economy. Not yet.

If the economy grows a lot worse, they may get round to that.  And if they do, I will have a question waiting for them.

If cutting taxes helps the economy, why did you advocate raising them last year?  Why did you say, six months ago, we should be raising them?

That is a simple question.  When the economy is slow you won’t talk about raising taxes. Raising taxes will hurt the economy.  You may even talk about cutting taxes.  Because cutting taxes, you will tell us, will help the economy.

With record amounts of money pouring into Washington two years ago, why did you then talk of raising taxes?  The purpose was not to bring in more money.  So what was the purpose?

No matter how they dodge that question, I hope they leave the tax cuts in place.  We pay enough taxes now.

From Tom ... as in Morgan.                   

For more columns and for Tom’s radio shows (and to write to Tom): tomasinmorgan.com.

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