D.C. debt spirals out of controlWritten by Jennifer Womack
“It’s staggering when you aggregate the additional costs and the loss of tax benefits,” says Lummis noting higher taxes, higher costs and no guarantee of higher salaries. “In fact, there’s no guarantee that the jobs that exist today are going to exist tomorrow.”
“It’s a stunning approach to governing and one in which I’m not in sync with at all,” she notes. Republicans are seeking better alternatives, but find it difficult to make progress within the democratically controlled House, Senate and Presidency.
“The American peoples’ involvement is more important than ever,” says Lummis applauding the April 15 TEA parties opposing increased taxes. “The TEA parties have been great, organized by people who have not historically been politically active.”
Changes in the taxes Americans pay will arrive in multiple forms — increased consumer costs, expiration of Bush era tax breaks and one proposal that would end the deduction for charitable giving. In some circles she says the administration has proposed a national sales tax.
“The tax increases on the American people will be enormous, rarely transparent because they’re going to be imbedded or buried in tax deductions that no longer exist and in some cases rate increases,” says Lummis. “They are proposing to increase the tax brackets.” While the administration shows a declining deficit, Lummis says that’s only true for five years and that after that time the debt load will spiral upwards.
Lummis is taking steps to affect positive change where possible. For the coming year Wyoming’s lone congressional representative won’t be sponsoring any earmarks. “I’m taking a wait and see attitude about future years because I don’t want to put Wyoming by itself in a position where dollars that would have gone to Wyoming are diverted to other states simply because I won’t do earmarks,” says Lummis. Earlier this year she was criticized for earmarks within the budget bill, but she says the earmarks were drawn by leadership from earlier requests without first consulting with the Wyoming delegation.
Lummis isn’t optimistic that Congress will do away with earmarks, but is looking toward reform. Her legislation would make the earmark process statutory and part of the budget. The earmark budget would be split evenly between the House and Senate with each member of the House receiving one piece of the 435-piece pie.
“If you apply that to the 2009 budget it would have been a little over $10 billion. As it was, the number of earmarks that passed was just under $20 billion so it basically cuts it in half.”
As members submitted their proposed projects after prioritizing needs Lummis says, “It would be transparent, it would be dollar limited and it would be equal among members of Congress.” She notes one member of Congress who directed $120 million to an airport named in his honor and with four commercial flights a week, all of which go to Washington, D.C.
“After five months there, I think that completely doing away with earmarks is going to be next to impossible,” she says. “I want to find a way to limit them, make them accountable and transparent and equal.” While the legislation may not pass this year, Lummis says she will work to gain co-sponsors.
While proponents call it cap and trade, others like Lummis, are calling the legislation that recently passed out of committee to cap carbon emissions, cap and tax. “It’s a national energy tax,” she says. “Wall Street will benefit because these are marketable credits. Some companies will benefit; there will be winners and losers. Coal will be a loser. Oil will be a big looser. Natural gas will lose, but not as much. Wind and solar will be winners. The big looser is the consumer because they will be footing the entire bill.”
Lummis has been approached to support legislation that would cap emissions, but forgo the trade aspect of the legislation that recently cleared committee. “Let the utilities work with their state Public Service Commissions (PSC) to find the best way that industry can to meet the standard by 2050, by whatever means they can. You use American ingenuity, technology, some changes perhaps in the mix of solar, wind, coal, natural gas to get you toward this standard without destroying our economy by putting a huge financial burden on the consumer at a time when they can least afford it.”
“It is frustrating for me, and many in Congress, that government right now genuinely believes it can do a better job of running the private sector than the private sector,” says Lummis. “Every week there’s some new massive indication that that is the view of this administration. I’m hopeful that the 2010 elections will change the make-up of Congress substantially enough to slow them down.”
While Lummis is concerned about the direction she sees American government heading, another Wyoming native has become the new administration’s most vocal challenger. “I’m pleased he chose to stand up and say a few things other can’t say with the same credibility,” says Lummis of former Vice President Dick Cheney.
Without a better balance of power to even out the conversations and the actions, Lummis says, “It’s not only a step in the wrong direction, but a giant departure from America’s free enterprise system.”