Just following the numbers, not to mention the assertions, is enough to produce blank stares of incomprehension. There is a debate about whether the estate tax should jump from zero to 35 percent, or 55 percent. Some liberal congressional Democrats claim they won't consider voting for the "compromise" unless it is 55 percent. As The Wall Street Journal noted last weekend, the estate tax was 55 percent in 2001, with a $675,000 exemption. In 2009, the top rate was 45 percent with a $3.5 million exemption. This year it has been zero percent with no exemption.
Republicans and Democrats have attached new spending for pork projects in the tax rate compromise bill. Pork is the universal language of Congress.
This is fiscal irresponsibility. The reason America has a debt approaching $14 trillion is that government will not live within the means provided to it by people who earn the money.
Sen. Bernie Sanders exposed the motives of liberals about progressive taxation. During a mini-filibuster against the deal struck by President Obama and the congressional Republican leadership, Sanders said it is "greedy" to oppose a hike in the tax rates. "Greed is like an addiction," he said, comparing it to heroin and nicotine. Sanders wondered how anyone could be proud to call himself a "multimillionaire?" One might ask how any U.S. senator could be proud to call himself a socialist? Besides, what business is it of government how much anyone legally earns?
According to Sanders' reasoning, if people resist turning over increasing amounts of their paychecks to government, they are greedy. The left is obsessed with punishing the successful, but even if billionaires and multi-millionaires were taxed at a 100 percent rate, it wouldn't get close to eliminating the debt. Cutting spending would.
What word might best characterize a government that so misspends our money? Unconstitutional? Irresponsible? Outrageous?
The class warfare game played by the Left leads nowhere. It is foreign to the Constitution and to our history. Every poor person would like the opportunity to become rich, or at least better off. Liberty and opportunity, not government, offer that chance if right choices are made and one develops a moral center.
The Left's real concern is that too many people might become independent of government and have less "need" of politicians. Most politicians won't let that happen unless forced to do so by the voters. The November election was a step in the right direction.
President Obama's latest manipulation of language is his shameless theft of a Republican idea. Last Friday, according to the Washington Post and an official of the administration, President Barack Obama "directed his economic team to begin analyzing options for overhauling the U.S. tax code as part of an effort to trim the long-term deficit."
"The idea is simplifying the system, hopefully lowering rates, broadening the base," the president told NPR News.
Wait, I thought the lowered Bush tax rates were a threat to the country?
The tax code has become complicated because Congress uses it to reward or punish companies or causes, which it favors, or opposes, depending upon which way the political wind blows. A simpler, more equitable code with lower rates would benefit taxpayers; the treasury would see tax receipts increase because more people would be paying taxes; there would be more capital available to the private sector for production of goods and services; and businesses could hire more people, who would become taxpayers.
Congressional Republicans should scuttle the deal offered by the president and await reinforcements, arriving next month. They might then get a better deal. And maybe, just maybe, the new members will speak a language the public understands.
Cal Thomas is the nation's most syndicated columnist.