Wednesday, February 16, 2011

GOP Values Become Evident While Questioning Sec. Tim Geithner

Secretary Tim Geithner testified before the House Ways and Means Committee yesterday and I was there to cover the hearing. While his prepared statement didn’t really bring anything to the table that hasn’t already been said by Obama or other administration officials, I did want to highlight some of what happen at the committee hearing because it highlights how the Republicans are approaching our current economic situation.

As the hearing opened, Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) was very quick to focus in on taxes. The very first thing he said after thanking Geithner for coming to the hearing, in fact, was “it has been said that the power to tax is the power to destroy.” He later added, “let me be clear Mr. Secretary, Americans are not taxed to little. What America has had under this Administration is too little job creation.”

While he did mention that there are millions of Americans who are out of work and “the average duration of unemployment is a record 37 weeks,” he didn’t bother to really discuss how we should be funding programs that can put these families to work. This is a shame because what we really need now is investment in job creating projects like building infrastructure and providing educational opportunities that will give people the skills necessary in the 21st Century job market. Instead of leading that type of discussion, however, Rep. Camp focused on supporting tax breaks for the extremely wealthy.

During his time to ask Secretary Geithner questions about the budget, for instance, Camp decided to press him on the Obama Administration’s desire to let the Bush tax cuts to those making over $250,000 a year expire. Camp falsely claimed that this wouldn’t be taxing the rich, but would actually harm small businesses that create jobs. Since we’ve been hearing this blatant attempt to bend the facts in order to protect the GOP’s wealthy donors for some time now, Geithner was probably expecting this line of questioning. He was therefore able to quickly point out that the businesses that would fall into this category are actually law and investment firms that bring in millions of dollars a year. In other words, they’re not the mom and pop stores or other local businesses that people traditionally think of when they hear someone refer to “small businesses.”

Now, as Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI) pointed out, the Democratic approach to the budget “is in sharp contrast to the House Republicans’ continuing resolution.” He continued by mentioning how we need to have “a necessary combination of investing in economic growth and reducing our deficit.” Although I was told by some senior aides that what comes out of the House of Representatives will likely be drastically different from what President Obama proposed, Levin highlighted how Obama’s budget did bring us towards the goal of accomplishing both economic growth and deficit reduction.

In case people couldn’t tell by Rep. Camp’s opening statement and the Republican line of questioning, Levin highlighted how “the House Republican plan disinvests in jobs, in growth and in our communities.” While this certainly doesn’t cover all of the job killing proposals that the Republicans have put forward, Rep. Levin highlighted how the Republican plan eliminates or drastically cuts programs that would keep police officers employed, invest in job creating water infrastructure projects, and community development block grants that help to improve local economies throughout the country. He also highlighted how those tax cuts that Camp so fiercely advocated for “would increase the deficit by nearly $1 trillion over ten years.”

As the budget will be the hot topic of conversation and legislative action on the Hill for at least the next couple of weeks, members of Congress and their staff are preparing for what some have predicted will the toughest budget fight in long time. Based upon what I heard in the hearings and conversations with staffers yesterday, this is a time when we could truly see what our leaders value.

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