It seems to be the debate without an end -- what to do about tax rates for high-income Americans -- and on Capitol Hill it's become political theater.
On Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted to keep existing tax rates in place -- including the "Bush tax cuts" former President George W. Bush signed into law in 2001 and 2003 -- through 2013. The vote may be symbolic, since President Obama has promised to veto such a measure and it would likely never make it through the Democratic-controlled Senate anyway. And the Senate recently passed a bill that would allow tax cuts for the top 2 percent of incomes to expire.
Congressman John Tierney, D-Salem, voted against the Republican-backed House and called on Republican leadership to pass an alternative bill to pass a bill similar to the one passed in the Senate.
“Speaker Boehner should stop catering to the extreme right wing of his party and pass the common sense, compromise bill that the Senate approved last week," Tierney said. "That proposal would extend tax cuts for all taxpayers on the first $250,000 of their income, regardless of overall wealth, while not extending additional special tax cuts for income exceeding that threshold. Rather than once again getting caught up in political games, let’s pass a bill that both sides agree on and that provides all families tax relief."
After the vote, the Tierney campaign turned his attacks on his opponent, Richard Tisei, once again attempting to paint him as a right-wing extremist. Tisei is challenging Tierney for the Sixth Congressional District seat, which represents Hamilton and Wenham in Washington.
“Richard Tisei’s Tea Party-inspired position on taxes will hurt middle-class families in the 6th District," Tierney Campaign Communications Director Grant Herring said. "Tisei wants to protect millionaires and billionaires from paying their fair share. When it comes to taxes, the differences in this election could not be clearer. John Tierney wants to lower taxes for middle class families and Mr. Tisei wants them to pay more. The middle class cannot afford more of Tisei’s agenda that coddles the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans."
Tisei, who has long advocated for low tax rates, did not seem ruffled by the attacks.
"In December 2009, when the economy was in a better place, President Obama said 'it's not time to raise taxes on anyone,'" Tisei said. "I agreed with him then and stand by that pro-growth vision today."
The Tierney campaign also cited an interview on NECN last November in which Tisei discussed tax policy and opposed extending the payroll tax cut.
"Tisei has stated publicly that he thinks the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans pay too much in taxes and believes that middle-class Americans need to pay more (NECN, 11/16/11)," A Tierney press release reads.
In that interview, Tisei said he opposed the extension of the payroll tax cut because it was a temporary fix to a tax code he saw as permanently flawed. He also advocated for a flatter tax rate policy, which would mean lower incomes paying more and higher incomes paying less, citing the fact that now the top earners pay about half of all taxes and lower earners pay none.
But Tisei has also refused to sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge -- a pledge to not vote to raise taxes -- saying that he wants the option to close tax loopholes which would effectively raise taxes on people taking advantage of those loopholes.
What do you think should be done with federal income tax rates? Leave a comment below and discuss.