Wicker warns of tax hike

Published 7:03 pm Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Mississippi’s man on The Hill is doing all he can to fightagainst new taxes, but he may be powerless to stop the return ofsome old ones.

Still, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker is using his stump time duringCongress’s summer break to warn audiences around the state aboutthose old taxes, which could come roaring back to life on Jan. 1 ofnext year if a series of tax relief programs known as the Bush TaxCuts is allowed to expire. Congressional leaders are discussingsome form of an extension, but no agreement has been reached.

The politician from Tupelo spoke to a joint meeting of theBrookhaven Lions and Brookhaven Kiwanis clubs Tuesday, stressingwhat he perceived as grave consequences that would result from thedeath of the tax cuts.

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“We’re facing the largest tax increase in the history of thecountry, and it will be done without a vote unless we dosomething,” Wicker said. “We’re going to have a tax increase in themiddle of a recession.”

Wicker took the liberty of condensing President Barack Obama’sstance on the Bush Tax Cuts into a single sentencing, telling hisaudience the commander in chief believes the program “ran us off ina ditch.” He disagreed.

“Those tax cuts inspired economic growth from 2001-2007,” Wickersaid. “People don’t realize it. But we’d love to go back to theeconomy we had in 2001.”

The economy of 2010 – and, by all predictions, that of 2011 – isill-suited to take the reintroduction of taxes held at bay byformer President George W. Bush’s programs, Wicker said. He placedexisting home sales at a 27 percent reduction, the lowest since1995. He also quoted statistics from a recent meeting with the HomeBuilders Association of Mississippi, where he learned new homestarts nationwide are at 500,000. They were at 2 million before therecession, he said.

“Is this a good time to increase taxes on small businesses, onthe country’s job creators?” he asked.

Wicker’s dire predictions are all complicated by a soaringnational debt, which the senator placed at $13 trillion, a number”none of us thought we’d ever live to see.” He reminded the civicclubs before him deficit spending reached $1.4 trillion at the endof fiscal year 2009, will stand around $1.3 trillion at the end offiscal year 2010 next month and is expected to hit around $12trillion in fiscal year 2011.

“This administration will have piled up $4 trillion in threeshort years,” Wicker said. “We won’t be able to pay it in ourlifetime.”

At least to begin chipping away at the deficit, Wicker said hesupported a budget amendment by Alabama’s Jeff Sessions andMissouri’s Claire McCaskill that would require a two-thirds vote towaive pay-go rules. He said it would freeze domestic spending,which is about 30 percent of the budget.

Wicker ended his presentation to the civic clubs by offering afew political predictions when pressed by the audience. He seemeduncomfortable agreeing totally with a questioner who asked aboutthe “bloodbath” that could be facing Democrats at the polls thisNovember, but he agreed that a congressional shakeup waslikely.

“I think both parties are expecting some change. The pendulumswings,” Wicker said.

When asked if there was any chance of extending the Bush TaxCuts, Wicker stayed in the gray area but did display some hope.

“I hear more and more Democrats in the Senate saying, ‘Itdoesn’t make sense to raise taxes right now,'” he said. “There’s achance for a bipartisan compromise, but there’s also a chance forstalemate. The process moves very, very slow.”

Wicker also shrugged off predictions the U.S. economy is headedfor a double-dip recession in 2011. There hasn’t been enough of aclimb to allow a second dip, he said.

“In order to have a dip, you have to come out of it first. Idon’t see it – I don’t see job creation and improvements in theeconomy,” he said.

In closing, Wicker fielded a question on the proposed mosquenear ground zero, a building project that would build an Islamiccenter near the site of the Twin Towers and an issue that hassharply divided the country. The senator is against theproposal.

“It’s supposed to be a symbol of reconciliation, and that hasn’tworked. This is going to cause the opening of old wounds,” hesaid.

Wicker lamented the president’s public endorsement of theproject, saying the move put the commander in chief on the wrongside of American public opinion when he didn’t have to say anythingat all.

“There will be consequences down the road if they go forwardwith it, and it will not produce reconciliation,” he said.