It looks like Republican and Democrat beltway insiders can agree on something, after all.
On New Year’s Day, Republicans and Democrats joined together to bilk taxpayers with their phony “fiscal cliff” deal. They voted to raise taxes on 77% of Americans, yet larded the bill with pork, corporate welfare, and special-interest giveaways. They voted to increase spending by $330 billion, while throwing around buzzwords like “compromise” and “deficit reduction.” And they once again postponed the promised sequester spending cuts negotiated in 2011.
It was a team effort. Senator Mitch McConnell and Joe Biden drafted an outrageous bill behind closed doors; Harry Reid gave Senators all of 6 minutes to read and vote on the bill around 1:30am on New Year’s Eve when nobody was watching; Speaker Boehner scheduled a rushed, up-or-down vote in the House the following day without allowing for sufficient time to read or amend the bill.
This type of collusion against the average American is no surprise. Republicans have been negotiating with themselves ever since the Boehner-led House Republicans passed the consensus “Cut Cap Balance Act” in July 2011 and then began walking away from it. Democrats have been winning since that day, and the goal of fiscal responsibility has been losing.
The latest McConnell-Biden deal (which I consider to be TARP 2.0 for the way it was crafted in secret and contaminated with special deals) is a microcosm of the world surrounding power and politics. It’s exactly the type of insider horse-trading we saw over four years ago with the TARP bailout, which gave rise to the first wave of the Tea Party movement.
While Republicans and Democrats in Congress voted to raise taxes on 77% of Americans, they extended the existing special interest loopholes in our tax code, including $119 million for companies to hire Native Americans, $3.71 billion for "leasehold, restaurant, and retail improvements," $248 million for film production expenses (we're subsidizing Hollywood), $222 million for rum production in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, $12.1 billion for the wind production tax credit and $2.18 billion for biodiesel producers.
If we are ever going to take our country back, we have to stop the collusion of big government and big business. The truth is, big business loves big government.
Rather than competing to be a top market performer, corporations hire Washington lobbyists to compete in the rat race for special deals and government handouts.
Corporate welfare is unfair and harmful to all of us, regardless of whether we are playing for the red or blue team. Politicians on both sides of the aisle and their corporate cronies pick winners and losers in the marketplace at the expense of everyday individuals. The fiscal cliff deal raised taxes on nearly all Americans, so that politicians in both parties can continue to give our money to connected friends and campaign donors.
Friends like Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO of General Electric and former Obama-appointed head of the Council on Competitiveness and Jobs. Mr. Immelt is the poster boy for rent-seeking millionaires, heading a company that receives enormous green energy subsidies while notoriously finding ways to evade paying any taxes at all.
We need a flatter, fairer tax code that treats all Americans equally -- not Beltway power players competing to carve holes in our tax code bigger than a slice of Swiss cheese. It shouldn’t matter who has the best lobbyist in Washington, because when the heavy spenders close out their tab, it’s “We the People” footing the bill.
But tax policy is not the only thing dampening economic growth. At every turn, individuals are getting shut out of the budgeting process.
The Senate Rules Committee shut the microphones off on over 200 grassroots activists in November 2011 during an informal hearing on the Tea Party Budget, a crowd-sourced proposal that balances the federal budget in 10 years without raising taxes.
The aggression continued at the 2012 Republican National Convention, when Speaker Boehner read a pre-planned teleprompter that “passed” a vote to shift the power of delegate selection away from the state parties and the grassroots and into the hands of a few top men in the GOP establishment.
More recently, Republican leadership committed the remarkably hostile act of purging fiscal conservatives from their committee positions for daring to take a stand on sound economic policy and voting out of line with the Party establishment. As Rep. Justin Amash noted at the time, “Only in Washington can you get kicked off the Budget Committee for trying to balance the budget.”
As our freedom-loving community continues to stand on principle over politics, the retaliations by a weakening Congressional establishment have been severe -- and keep escalating. That’s what always happens in a hostile takeover. Entrenched management fights to keep the shareholders out.
Well this shareholder meeting isn’t over yet. Some establishment pundits tell me, “Elections have consequences.” But bad votes have consequences too. And we in the grassroots freedom community are not going to forget this one.
Matt Kibbe is president and chief community organizer of Free the People. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller, "Don't Hurt People and Don't Take Their Stuff." Follow him on Twitter at @MKibbe.