Not balanced, in fact regressive

The president repeats incessantly that he wants a balanced approach to fiscal policy. However, consider that he already got $600 billion in partial expiration of the Bush tax cuts, over a trillion dollars in taxes as part of Obamacare and now seeks about a trillion more in new revenue in his budget proposal. In the meantime, he lifted not a finger to prevent a raise in the payroll tax.

House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. (Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis. (Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)

If a GOP president had done all this the left and the media (I repeat) would holler that it’s all an effort to balance the budget on the backs of the poor. Consider items like the medical device tax in Obamacare. That tax on everything from wheelchairs to insulin pumps is regressive, and worse is exacted (in the form of higher costs) on sick, non-rich people.

In his budget he’s now going after poor smokers. Bloomberg points out:

Similarly, increasing the federal cigarette tax to $1.95 per pack to pay for a new national preschool program sounds great. Except when you consider that tobacco taxes are extraordinarily regressive, increase smuggling, and impose costs on a small and dwindling part of the population to pay for a putatively permanent federal program. It’s hard to see how this tax is particularly fair. And as the rate of adults who smoke cigarettes continues its inexorable long-term decline, it’s even harder to see how the revenue will be sustainable.

That tax is used to fund universal pre-K, a program of dubious merit, which, when cigarette taxes prove to be insufficient, will be another unfunded mandate. What’s more, as Reason magazine points out, we are working at cross-purposes when it comes to smokers. While we are taxing smokers “healthcare exchanges created by Obamacare are starting to classify cigarette smoking as a pre-existing condition, prohibiting insurance companies for charging more to customers who take a higher risk by smoking.” So we punish smokers and then subsidize them by cost shifting the true cost of their health-care to nonsmokers.

Meanwhile on the spending side, Obama was forced to accept his own sequester, but now wants to take it back (so no credit for a $1.2 trillion spending cut in his 2014 budget with a mix of spending cuts and tax hikes). And when gimmicks are removed and tax increases are taken out of the spending column, over ten years the president cuts the deficit by a smidgen but actually increases spending by $964 billion.

Add it up over ten years: On the tax side there is about $2.6 trillion in taxes (Obamacare + fiscal cliff + 2014 budget) and about $964 billion in spending increases. This is not balanced and, what is more, it is regressive.

Then you get to the failure to make systemic changes in entitlement programs. Republicans need a Buffett Rule for entitlements — no more free Medicare for millionaires and minimize Social Security benefits (they get back only what they put in). The “rich” (using, for example, the same group for whom Obama let the Bush tax cuts expire) should have to pay substantially more than the current system and than the president’s minor means testing for Medicare parts B and D (which is saving a miniscule $50 billion over ten years).

Taken in totality this amounts to a huge amount of new taxes and some new spending. That is how you expand, not shrink, the debt to $25 trillion.

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