With the federal deficit now conservatively projected to reach $1.4 trillion for 2011 and to exceed $700 billion annually for the next decade, President Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress favor historic tax increases as the remedy. So, unless Obama and Congress reverse their declared course and approve new legislation to extend the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, they will expire on Jan. 1, 2011.
As Investor's Business Daily points out, that means everybody who pays taxes -- about half of all adult Americans -- will see steep tax increases come New Year's Day. Those in the lowest tax bracket of 10 percent on adjusted gross income will see their levy go to 15 percent. Folks in the 25 percent bracket will face a 28 percent levy. And those in the old 28 percent bracket and the 33 percent bracket will go to 31 percent and 36 percent, respectively. Finally, "rich" taxpayers in the highest current bracket of 35 percent will go to 39.6 percent.
But wait, there's more. The estate tax -- aka the "death tax" -- returns at 55 percent for an estate valued at $1 million or more, while the capital gains tax will move up to 20 percent from its current 15 percent. The tax on dividends more than doubles, from the current 15 percent to 39.6 percent. These tax increases will at the outset produce more revenue for government, but, as Washington's record since at least 1965 demonstrates over and over, more tax dollars coming in means more spending going out. So federal spending will keep getting bigger, the deficit will continue to grow, and so will the national debt, which in just three years has exploded from $9.2 trillion to more than $13 trillion.
Even worse will be the damaging effect of these higher taxes on economic growth, which is already barely showing a pulse. As the Heritage Foundation's Center for Data Analysis has convincingly shown, economic growth slows or disappears whenever federal taxes go up, and the economy shifts back into high gear when Washington's tax take goes down. Lower taxes and growing economies create new jobs and opportunities, while higher taxes foster more unemployment. An amendment sponsored last week by Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., to end the death tax permanently would create 1.5 million new jobs, according to a study by the American Family Business Foundation. Too bad Senate Democrats killed the DeMint proposal.
All of the foregoing reminds us of President Reagan's wise maxim: "Our problem is not that the American people don't pay enough in taxes, it's that the government spends too much."