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Paul Ryan: ‘Saving the American Idea: Rejecting Fear, Envy and the Politics of Division’

10:12 AM, Oct 26, 2011 • By DANIEL HALPER
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  • Petty and trivial? Just last week, the President told a crowd in North Carolina that Republicans are in favor of, quote, “dirtier air, dirtier water, and less people with health insurance.” Can you think of a pettier way to describe sincere disagreements between the two parties on regulation and health care?
  • Chronic avoidance of tough decisions? The President still has not put forward a credible plan to tackle the threat of ever-rising spending and debt, and it’s been over 900 days since his party passed a budget in the Senate.
  • A preference for scoring cheap political points instead of consensus-building? This is the same President who is currently campaigning against a do-nothing Congress, when in fact, the House of Representatives has passed over a dozen bills to help get the economy moving and deal with the debt, only to see the President’s party kill those bills in the do-nothing Senate.

Look, we put our cards on the table. Earlier this year, the House of Representatives advanced a far-reaching plan filled with common-sense reforms aimed at putting the budget on the path to balance and the economy on the path to prosperity.

But instead of working together where we agree, the President has opted for divisive rhetoric and the broken politics of the past. He is going from town to town, impugning the motives of Republicans, setting up straw men and scapegoats, and engaging in intellectually lazy arguments, as he tries to build support for punitive tax hikes on job creators.

The tax increases proposed by Senate Democrats and endorsed by the President – when combined with the new taxes in the health-care law, and the President’s other tax preferences – would push the top federal tax rate to roughly 50 percent in just 14 months, while doing nothing to promote job creation.

This tax increase on so-called “millionaires and billionaires” would actually constitute a huge tax hike on the nation’s most successful small businesses. According to the Tax Foundation, the surtax would hit roughly 35 percent of small-business income.

As P.J. O’Rourke put it, “The good news is that, according to the Obama administration, the rich will pay for everything. The bad news is that, according to the Obama administration, you’re rich.”

Actually, the news is even worse. As a practical matter, when you try to chase ever-higher spending with ever-higher tax increases, you eventually run into a brick wall of math.

The President has been talking a lot about math lately. He’s been saying that, quote, “If we’re not willing to ask those who’ve done extraordinarily well to help America close the deficit… the math says… we’ve got to put the entire burden on the middle class and the poor.”

This is really a stunning assertion from the President. When you look at the actual math, you quickly realize that the way out of this mess is to combine economic growth with reasonable, responsible spending restraint. Yet neither of these things factors into the President’s zero-sum logic.

According to the President’s logic, we should give up on trying to reform our tax code to grow the economy and get more revenue that way. Instead, these goals are taking a backseat to the President’s misguided understanding of fairness.

Remember that 2008 debate, when ABC’s Charlie Gibson pointed out that raising the capital gains tax rate actually tends to drive revenues down?

Obama replied: “Well, Charlie, what I’ve said is that I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness.” That’s the kind of logic we are unfortunately seeing today. 

Also according to the President’s logic, spending restraint is incompatible with a strong, well-functioning safety net. The belief that recipients of government aid are better off the more we spend on them is remarkably persistent. No matter how many times this central tenet of liberalism gets debunked, like Brett Favre, it just keeps coming back.

The President has wrongly framed Republican efforts to get government spending under control as hard-hearted attacks on the poor. In reality, spending on programs for seniors and for lower-income families continues to grow every year under the House-passed budget – it just grows at a sustainable rate. We direct tax dollars where they’re needed most, and stop spending money we don’t have on boondoggles we don’t need.

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