"Tax increases destroy jobs."
So said House Speaker John Boehner in a speech on Thursday to the Economic Club of Washington, denouncing President Obama's jobs bill because it would raise taxes on the "job-creating" rich.
Mr. Boehner did not tell us how many jobs have been created in the past year by this grossly undertaxed sliver of our population. Nor did he say anything about what happened the last time Congress raised our taxes.
In the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993, a Democratic-majority Congress raised taxes on top wage earners, corporations, Social Security benefits, and transportation fuels, and lifted the cap on Medicare taxes. Not a single Republican in the House or Senate voted for the Act, which President Clinton signed on August 10.
And guess what happened?
Between the date of the signing and the end of Clinton's second term, more than 21 million jobs were CREATED. Whether or not these jobs grew out of the tax increases or rose up in spite of them is a question debated by those on the right and the left. But no one can deny this simple fact: the largest tax increase in American history was followed by one of the most extraordinary periods of job growth we've ever seen. So when the Speaker of the House claims that tax increases destroy jobs, he's talking through his hat.
This is just one reason why I continue to support President Obama. Though it is safe to predict that House Republicans will never pass his Jobs Bill, I believe he can run on it next year. When 14 million people are out of work and more than 46 million are mired in poverty, how many voters really believe that the wealthiest among us simply cannot be asked to pay their fair share of taxes? Not even to pay for things we desperately need -- such as extending unemployment benefits, cutting payroll taxes for businesses and typical American workers, giving tax credits to employers who hire veterans and the long-term unemployed, keeping police, teachers, and firefighters on the job, repairing and modernizing some 35,000 public schools, and putting hundreds of thousands of workers back on the job rebuilding the roads, rails, bridges, and airports that businesses cannot run without?
Next fall, how many voters will believe that we must sacrifice all these benefits on the altar of NO: no tax increases on the so-called "job-creating" rich? Mr. Speaker, the rich won't create jobs until consumers start demanding more goods and services. And that demand won't come without the kind of action exemplified by the American Jobs Bill.
Opposition to this bill springs, of course, from the same mindset that has lately defined the Federal government as the number one Enemy of the People. Texas Governor Rick Perry, for instance, is running for president on a pledge to "make Washington, D.C. as inconsequential as possible in our lives." But since February 2009, businesses and government agencies in Texas have received more than 17 billion FEDERAL dollars from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and when fierce wildfires swept the state last spring, guess who begged the president for an emergency declaration that would bring more federal resources and dollars to the state? ( In response to Governor Perry's urgent request, the president made the declaration.)
It's fascinating to see what emergencies do to state governors, regardless of which party they belong to or what they think about government spending. When Hurricane Irene brought floods to New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie, a darling of the Republican right (which would dearly love to see him run for president), could hardly wait for FEMA funds and would not tolerate any delays in the name of budget-balancing, such as the offsetting cuts in federal spending demanded by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. At a news conference on September 1, here's what Christie said of Cantor's demand: "You're going to turn it into a fiasco like that debt-limit thing where you're fighting with each other for eight or nine weeks and you expect the citizens of my state to wait? They're not gonna wait, and I'm going to fight to make sure that they don't. I don't want to hear about the fact that offsetting budget cuts have to come first before New Jersey citizens are taken care of."
Listen, folks: that's a REPUBLICAN governor asking the federal government to take care of his people. Without wrangling over spending cuts.
How many more fires, hurricanes, and economic disasters do we need before we can all recognize that the federal government is absolutely vital to the survival of this country? And can we afford to vote for anyone who simply wants the government to get out of our way, or who doesn't believe that every one of us should pay our fair share to support it?
These will be central questions in the coming elections.