The Issue: The U.S. House of Representatives approved a compromise bill Tuesday that prevents widespread tax increases and sharp cuts in federal budgets.
As is the case with most compromise legislation, HR 8 was not a pretty thing to look at, but it accomplished its goal: Tax increases will include the wealthiest Americans, and the meat ax will not be applied to federal budgets.
This hard-won compromise reached just after the 11th hour contains plenty that conservatives and liberals can bemoan. It raises income taxes and it doesn’t fully address federal spending. But it did one important thing: It allowed the politically polarized House to allow negotiations on these issues to move forward in a new Congress without wrecking the nation’s slow but steady recovery from the Great Recession.
The House bill passed on a 257-167 bipartisan vote early on New Year’s Day. The same bill earlier passed the Senate with an even wider margin of approval, 89-8.
Alabama’s two Republican senators were on opposite sides of the vote. Jeff Sessions voted for the compromise, while Richard Shelby didn’t, calling the bill a failure.
But Alabama’s House delegation was divided along party lines. The lone Democrat, Terri Sewell, voted for the bill, while the six Republicans voted against it.
Throughout this ugly debate, there has been little sign of statesmanship. No calm, reasonable voices have been heard.
Instead, the vitriol of partisanship has dominated the floors of the House and Senate, which have become well-dressed puppet shows aping the nightly cable TV opinion programs.
Sadly, there was no sign of independent thinking among Alabama’s House Republicans. They were in lock step with the right wing of the party, which does not benefit Alabama. Sure, they will complain that taxes are bad for economic growth and that spending is out of control. But let’s take a look at those arguments from Alabama’s perspective.
By one measure, Alabama is a welfare state. For every federal tax dollar Alabama pays, it receives $1.66 in return from the federal government. That’s because Alabama is under taxed internally, leaving it to the generosity of taxpayers in other parts of the country to shore up our refusal to pay the cost of taking care of ourselves.
So, if deep cuts to federal budgets and low taxes are the goals of the Republicans in our House delegation, how would they recommend Alabama pay its own way? With taxes? Perish the thought.
The austerity some propose, and the fundamentally flawed theory of trickle-down economics most espouse, are recipes for an even gloomier economic future.