The Fiscal Commission Act of 2023, like similar commissions before it, will further efforts to increase taxes and result in dangerous political consequences for conservatives.
Last week, the House Budget Committee passed H.R. 5779, the Fiscal Commission Act (FCA) of 2023. This bill would establish a Fiscal Commission tasked with making recommendations and writing legislative language to “improve the long-term fiscal condition of the federal government.”
Unfortunately, this bill, as written, would give the commission the clear authority to recommend tax increases which would then be given “expedited consideration” in the House and Senate.
This isn’t a new idea. In fact, we’ve tested this idea several times before. Overwhelmingly, the result is failure to reduce spending and success – for the Left – in putting tax hikes on the table.
H.R. 5779 would establish a 16-member commission, with an equal number of Republicans and Democrats in both the House and Senate. For legislative language to pass out of the commission, it would only need a simple majority of the voting members with the caveat that the majority would have to include at least 3 members from each party.
Well-meaning Republicans in support of this bill are relying on the idea that Democrats will support legislative framework to reduce spending without a tax increase. This is quite the assumption, considering this bill only received substantive Democrat support because the House Budget Committee changed the bill to explicitly leave the door open to tax hike recommendations.
For the short two years Democrats had power of both chambers and the presidency, they worked relentlessly to increase both spending and taxes. Republicans were given control of the House specifically because voters were dissatisfied with these reckless policies. It is mystifying that, with this control, members are pushing for the creation of a Fiscal Commission that would put Democrats on equal ground with Republicans in drafting legislation for the House to consider.
Not only does this bill ignore Democrats’ most recent efforts to raise taxes and spending, but it also ignores the decades-long history of similar commissions and bipartisan deals which all result in the same outcome: tax hikes with no meaningful spending cuts.
In 1982 Democrats made a “bipartisan grand bargain” with President Reagan promising $3 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax increases. Result: The tax increases happened, the spending cuts did not. Reagan regretted getting lied to and later said, “We never got the $3 in spending cuts.”
In 1990 Democrats made another “bipartisan grand bargain” with President George H.W. Bush promising $2 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax increases. Result: The tax increases happened, the spending cuts did not. Bush regretted getting lied to and later said, “It was a mistake to go along with the Democratic tax increase and I admit it.”
The bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (NCFRR), commonly referred to as the Simpson-Bowles commission, created via executive order during the Obama administration, proposed several multi-trillion-dollar tax hikes that went to Congress to be voted on.
In 2010, the Simpson-Bowles commission proposed a net tax hike of $1.133 trillion which sought to raise the federal tax burden permanently to 21 percent of GDP, up from the half-century average of 18 percent of GDP.
In 2012, the Simpson-Bowles budget would have raised taxes over the next decade by $2 trillion, and was riddled with phony spending cut gimmicks and double-counting. It was voted down in the House after united conservative movement opposition from Americans for Tax Reform and groups like Americans for Prosperity, Heritage Foundation, Club for Growth, and National Taxpayers Union.
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), even after the commission got several multi-trillion-dollar tax hikes on the floor, insisted that the NCFRR was insufficient, as it didn’t have enough power. Specifically, the commission’s recommendations weren’t given expedited consideration. Rep. Wolf proposed his own bill, the Securing America’s Future Economy (SAFE) Commission Act – which would establish a commission “with teeth.” This bill, designed to go further than the disastrous Obama debt commission, is effectively the same as the Fiscal Commission Act of 2023, under consideration now.
Similar commissions have been tried on the state level too. In 2011, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton (D-Ohio) established a bipartisan debt commission which mirrored Obama’s Simpson-Bowles commission. At the time, Americans for Tax Reform warned against its establishment. Soon after, the commission released its recommendations, which included $1.4 billion in tax increases on income, cigarettes, and alcohol.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If we don’t learn from our past mistakes, we’ll soon be fighting disastrous tax hike proposals yet again. This time, Republicans will be on the hook for helping create the commission in the first place.