As Congress begins debate over what to do about the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy, I hope it has the courage to let my tax cuts expire. It would be the right thing to do.
Back in 2001, Congress voted for President Bush’s tax program, including substantial tax reductions for those of us with incomes over $250,000. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, our nation had to borrow more than $700 billion over the last decade to pay for those cuts.
When these tax cuts were enacted, congressional forecasters projected budget surpluses totaling more than $5 trillion over the ensuing decade. In the meantime, as we all know, the fiscal situation of the nation has dramatically deteriorated.
But the cuts were never meant to be permanent. They are now due to expire at the end of this year, but some lawmakers want to preserve them. I would pay less in taxes if Congress extended my tax cuts, but as a citizen I think it would be irresponsible.
Retaining the tax cuts for another 10 years would cost our nation $826 billion. No one is suggesting I pay back the tax breaks I’ve already received, but we cannot afford to continue them.
The good news is that there were benefits built into the Bush tax program that affected middle-income families, too. Congress should take steps to preserve these tax cuts, because for half a century we’ve been shifting taxes off the wealthy and onto the middle class. We’ve cut top income tax rates and taxes on capital gains and inheritances, tilting the system in favor of taxpayers like me and further exacerbating the great inequalities in wealth and income in our society.
Preserving the cuts for middle-income families and eliminating tax breaks for incomes over $250,000 is a solid first step toward rebalancing our nation’s tax code.
No one likes to talk about taxes in a positive light, but the truth is that our nation has built a remarkable marketplace for enterprise and wealth creation. Taxes paid for the public investments in research, education, infrastructure and technology that made this possible. They paid for law enforcement and orderly marketplaces. These public investments buoyed my personal opportunities and wealth. I am certain they have done the same for millions of other Americans.
We should remember this on Tax Day, as Congress debates what to do about tax cuts. Some of our leaders will argue that allowing the tax cuts for the wealthy to expire will have an adverse effect on the economy, job creation, and that it will punish success. They will argue instead for deeper spending cuts in Medicare, Social Security, education, and social spending.
But our country needs the estimated $45 billion in annual revenue that these taxes would generate.
Those of us who have benefited the most during abundant times have a duty to our country during lean times.
Yes, I can voluntarily pay more taxes, just as I choose to give more money to charity. But that won’t address the magnitude of the problem we are leaving to future taxpayers. The issues before Congress are the structure of the tax code and the question of how we, as a nation, take responsibility for the reckless debts of the past.
Congress can take a responsible step in the right direction: Let my tax cut go.