What happened to the GOP deficit hawks?
When I first ran for Congress, I said we needed to get the debt under control and stop borrowing from China, and that the borrowing was creating a national security risk and undermining our moral authority in the world.Washington Republicans had created this enormous debt by placing Bush’s tax cuts, two wars and the Medicare Part D program on our nation’s credit card, without paying for them. Voters saw financial disaster looming and threw the Republicans out.Over the next two years, the nation and Congress faced difficult decisions. The economy faltered in 2007, and 2008 saw Wall Street’s self-inflicted meltdown. The middle class and the poor were hardest hit, suffering millions of job losses. The Bush administration immediately came up with a plan to save Wall Street bankers, who actually wreaked this economic havoc, and I voted against it.When Democrats took the White House, President Obama proposed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.I voted for that $800 billion package, though I worried about the cost. But without money or credit available on the local and state levels, we had to help families and small businesses.The stimulus had the largest middle-class tax cut in history – a third of it was tax cuts. However, in the stimulus, Republicans had found a campaign issue to use against Democrats. While they admitted their party had indeed caused the massive debts during the Bush administration, they swore to voters that they had learned their lesson and would “stop the borrowing and spending.” Remember that slogan? The Republicans’ friends, the shadowy groups that spent millions defeating Democrats, ran nonstop ads about the borrowing and spending.But that was two months ago – a lifetime in politics. I cannot find that slogan on Capitol Hill now. As we continue to borrow for Iraq and Afghanistan and all of our other commitments, those who beat their chests and wailed about the debt are now voting to increase it.This new tax-cut bill is being sold to the middle class as a great deal, and one part is. We do need to extend the Bush tax cuts for the middle class.However, in addition to the extension of the Bush middle-class tax cuts, people are now being offered an extra deal – a tax “holiday.” Who among us doesn’t like a holiday? Festive-sounding, isn’t it?But the reality is that the money is coming from the Social Security fund, the program that protects the old and disabled.The Republicans failed to privatize Social Security under President Bush. Now, they can hardly believe their good fortune. More than $110 billion will be diverted from Social Security for these tax cuts. Of course, the politicians have promised to make it up to us. They will take money from the general fund and put it in the Social Security fund. Really?Usually, Congress raids Social Security to put it in the general fund. Then, we just borrow from countries like China to keep us going.But that isn’t all Congress is doing to the middle class. The Senate Republicans refused to extend unemployment benefits unless we renewed the Bush tax cuts for the richest Americans, and astoundingly, Senate Democratic leaders caved in. Both parties are guilty of increasing the deficit unnecessarily. They know that most economists agree that this giveaway for the richest will not stimulate the economy, as will unemployment benefits. The richest among us will not spend – they will save.Republicans accused those of us who said this was unfair to the middle class of hating rich people.But I certainly do not, and neither does David Stockman, President Reagan’s Office of Management and Budget director. He was right when he said in The New York Times last summer, “If there were such a thing as Chapter 11 for politicians, the Republican push to extend the unaffordable Bush tax cuts would amount to a bankruptcy filing.”But wait – that’s not all. A few of the wealthiest families spent a mere $400 million lobbying for estate tax breaks, and it turned out to be a great investment. Estates will now be exempt from taxes for the first $10 million if you are a couple, and then taxed at a rate of 35 percent after that. By now, you must be wondering how much this will cost you and your children.Don’t worry. Be happy. Who says we can’t have it all? Certainly not Senate leaders. Certainly not House Republicans. Certainly not our foreign lenders. At least, not yet.Democrat Carol Shea-Porter was New Hampshire’s 1st District representative in Congress from 2006 to 2010.