House Republican leader John Boehner Tuesday called on President Obama to extend the Bush tax cuts, fire his economic team, and listen to the fears and “entrenched uncertainty” that is stalling job growth on Main Street.
In his first economic address of the 2010 campaign season, the man who would be Speaker slammed the president’s top legislative accomplishments – economic stimulus, health-care reform, and financial regulation – as job killers.
Congressman Boehner's speech did not offer any specific alternatives – saying they would be built from the ground up after “listening to the American people.” Democrats say he is merely trying to distort achievements that he could not block.
But the speech did offer glimpses of how Boehner might direct the House if Republicans pick up 39 votes in November.
“The prospect of higher taxes, stricter rules, and more regulations has employers sitting on their hands,” he told the City Club of Cleveland. “And after the pummeling they’ve taken from Washington over the last 18 months, who can blame them?”
The speech was red meat for conservatives gearing up for the fall elections. Boehner called on the president to veto any “job-killing bills” passed after the Nov. 2 elections by a lame-duck Congress, including proposed “card check” legislation to make it easier for unions to organize, energy legislation that includes a tax on carbon emissions, and any tax increase.
He also cited a report by Congress’s Joint Tax Committee that half of small business income in America would face higher taxes under Mr. Obama's plan to extend only some of the Bush tax cuts. “Raising taxes on families and small businesses during a recession is a recipe for disaster – both for our economy and for the deficit. Period. End of story,” Boehner said.
But amid the campaign invectives were more nuanced hints of how the "party of no" might govern if it retakes the House. "I've said that if I were fortunate enough to be Speaker of the House, I would run the House differently," Boehner said. "Look at spending. We don't just need to stop spending so much, we need to stop spending so irrationally." [Editor's note: In the original version, the word "just" was mistakenly left out of Boehner's quote.]
Boehner disputes what he calls "the common logic among Washington Democrats" that building a hiking trail or playground – or, for that matter, extending unemployment insurance – creates jobs better than investments in private-sector growth.
"We have to remember that, even when spending is not at record-setting levels, each dollar the government collects is taken directly out of the private sector," he said.
The Democrats are only making matters worse because they don't understand how to help small businesses – the engine of job creation, he said.
He used the new health-care law as an example, suggesting that it will produce more than 160 new boards, programs, and commissions, as well as 3,833 pages of regulation, including a mandate that requires small businesses to report purchases that cost more than $600.
“What is the point of making employers and entrepreneurs spend $17 billion to send all this paperwork to Washington, where it’s going to cost about $10 billion to log it in and file it away?" Boehner said. “President Obama should call on Congress to repeal this mandate without delay, and without strings attached.”
Democrats – some responding before the speech was delivered – dubbed it a return to failed ways of the past that will deepen deficits and strangle the recovery.
The White House responded that Obama's Bush-tax-cut plan – which would not extend the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans – "would have no effect on more than 97 percent of small businesses.”
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D) of Maryland, who chairs the House Democratic campaign effort, added that Boehner’s proposal to permanently extend all the tax cuts is "fiscally reckless" and "will destabilize the economy and kill the nascent job creation that is going on now."
Responding to Boehner’s claim that small businesses will be hurt by the Obama tax plan, Rep. Sander Levin (D) of Michigan, the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, said that Democrats have asked the Joint Tax Committee to reevaluate the impact on small business of phasing out tax cuts for the highest income brackets.
“They don’t say half of small businesses [would face a tax increase under the Obama plan], they say half of it will go to small businesses. That’s very different,” he said. The top income brackets include “lawyers, doctors, all kinds of people that are not usually thought of as small business.”