If the 2000's Were a Lost Decade, Was 2011 a Lost Year?
Admit it, we say the same thing every year. “I can’t believe its Thanksgiving already; pretty soon it’ll be Christmas!” The year has all but passed, with not much to show for it. I wrote on these pages in March of what Americans could anticipate coming out of the first branch of government; heavy on oversight, light on legislative output. Having spent more than a decade on Capitol Hill, I can’t say I relish being right. What’s worse, America saw for the first time a downgrade in its credit rating, due in large part to the inaction of Congress who spent more time attacking each other instead of attacking what ails our troubled economy.
When ASA’s Government Affairs Committee met at NetworkASA 2011 in September, there was discussion of how our members might be able to learn about what has passed and what, if anything, actually has been accomplished. Surely Congress has accomplished something, right?
I can report on just a few bi-partisan, bi-cameral victories on behalf of the taxpayer and American businesses. Sadly, it really is just a few. It wasn’t long ago that millions of employers learned with dismay that for any transaction greater than $600, they would have to file a Form 1099 with the IRS. This was designed, rather unfairly, to generate a new source of revenue to help pay for the Affordable Care Act, you remember, the one that was fully paid for; I bet you didn’t think that you were paying for it!
As we went to print, another key issue of interest to the business community was a repeal of the 3% Withholding Tax that was working its way through both chambers. Having passed the House, with the support of the White House, this bill moved to the Senate, where it passed with one amendment. After passing the House once again, it was signed into law.
As you might be asking, the fact that it takes a multi-year campaign to reverse a few lines in our tax code would appear that Congress just doesn’t have its act together. That may be true in many ways, but the 3% Withholding Repeal had to compete with a number of issues vying for time and attention on the well of the Lower Chamber. A number of other bills that would benefit the business community have also passed the House, but not nearly enough enjoyed the same fate in the Senate as the 1099 or 3% withholding repeals.
An overriding theme had long been that Republicans were obstructionists, but another glance might tell a different story. More than a dozen pieces of legislation that would either roll back burdensome regulations or reduce the heavy hand of labor’s influence in our lives languished in the Senate. To be sure, Republicans have fought hard for what they believe in, but for the Senate Majority, led by Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to bury so many bills speaks to a certain amount of inaction and obstruction on their part. House Republicans shouldn’t expect the bills they’ve passed to continue without amendment in the Senate. What they should expect is an honest debate about differences both sides may have. Go to www.asa.net and click on the “Buried Bills” news item on the homepage for a full list of these ‘hidden’ pieces of legislation.
The taxpayers deserve better, Americans expect more.