Christmas is here, and there is not much to celebrate after Congress and President Biden have delivered a year filled with a reckless and wasteful government spending. Inflation has risen to 6.8 percent, the highest rate since 1982, and consumers are facing higher prices on almost everything from gas prices to grocery bills, to clothing and airfare. After Thanksgiving costs hit an all-time high, the 12 days of Christmas will cost twice as much as they did in 2000, hardly a time to be merry.
This inflation has been caused in large part by the reckless and unchecked spending spree that the government has been on for nearly two years. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress has authorized more than $5.5 trillion for “pandemic relief,” but a large portion of that money was spent on programs that had nothing to do with the pandemic, and nearly $1 trillion remains unspent. Thankfully, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) gave Americans a gift when he forced the vote on the Build Back Better Act (BBBA) to be delayed until 2022 and then said he opposed it altogether.
The BBBA would have been one of the worst Christmas presents in history, since it calls for up to $1.75 trillion in new government spending, an amount that was proven to be far short of its true cost. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported that if temporary provisions in the bill were extended or made permanent it would cost $4.9 trillion and add $3 trillion to the deficit over 10 years. While some Democrats, like President Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), claim that the BBB is fully paid for and everyone gets a free present that “costs nothing,” that was never true. The CBO report carried out Milton Freidman’s view that “nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program.”
The BBBA at any cost includes provisions that dramatically increase the size, scope, and power of the federal government, while restricting freedom and liberty. The bill authorizes nearly $80 billion for the IRS to hire 87,000 new agents and like the ghost of Christmas past, allows them to go back in time to review any bank account with annual income and expenditures greater than $10,000 regardless of the taxpayer’s audit status. There are very few individuals that pay less than $10,000 in rent or buy less than $10,000 in food and clothing, or businesses that have income or expenditures of $10,000 or less.
The BBBA provides $2.5 billion to improve “tree equity” and $1 billion to turn government buildings into “high-performing green buildings.” It also includes $19.6 billion to create a “Civilian Climate Corps” that would hire thousands of people to run around the country telling everyone that the sky is falling from climate change and they should make sure to pick up and properly dispose of their trash. These “presents” were never part of the 12 days of Christmas.
The BBBA also includes tax proposals that give to the rich and take from the poor, contradicting the axiom that Christmas is a time to help the less fortunate. The tax credit of $7,500 for purchasing an electric vehicle rises to $12,500 if it was made at a plant with unionized workers. This tax break would benefit wealthy Americans who can afford to buy electric vehicles and labor unions, one of the Democrats’ biggest political allies.
The wealthy make out like bandits as well through the increase in the state and local tax (SALT) deduction from $10,000 to $80,000. Those making $175,000 or more (the top 20 percent of tax filers) would get 94 percent of the benefits. Middle and lower-income Americans are not just paying the price for the SALT deduction (which would cost $245 billion over 10 years), they are also paying a disproportionate share of the regressive new taxes that cover all products containing nicotine, including harm reduction products that have proven to help Americans quit smoking. These taxes also disprove President Biden’s claim that no one making less than $400,000 would see a tax increase.
Christmas is known as the “feast of the poor,” but President Biden and Congress are not doing anything to help them. Their wild spending spree has made the holiday cost far more than it should.
Inflation and higher taxes are not on anybody’s Christmas list. Members of Congress should be heading to the North Pole and helping Santa deliver lower taxes, less spending, and fewer regulations, rather than giving American families giant lumps of coal in their stockings.
Tom Schatz is president of Citizens Against Government Waste.