Our intrepid Congress returned from its Thanksgiving break Monday to take on several important items facing the nation, such as the looming tax increase for all Americans, fixes for some provisions of ObamaCare, the nuclear weapons treaty known as START and funding for the federal government itself. But before our elected representatives could tackle those important chores, they turned their attention to school lunches, a food “safety” bill and regulating volume for television commercials. Ain’t our republic grand?
First Lady Michelle Obama has made it her cause to fight childhood obesity. A fine goal, but not if it includes the $4.5 billion child nutrition bill headed to her husband’s desk. The legislation will supposedly improve the nutritional value of school lunches and take sugary snacks and drinks out of vending machines in schools. To pay for it, future funding for food stamps will take a hit. We’re sure that money will never actually be cut, but it looks good on paper.
The Senate, meanwhile, passed the Food Safety Bill, which would merely saddle the nation’s 2.2 million farms and 28,000 food producers with even more regulations and taxes. As The Wall Street Journal aptly put it, “maybe the bill won the votes of 13 Republicans because there was hardly any public controversy. These days, the government needs to take over entire industries to get anyone to notice.” However, House Democrats may block the bill — because it violates the Constitution. The legislation includes fees (a.k.a. taxes), and according to Article I, Section 7, “All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives.” Don’t be fooled, though. House Democrats aren’t concerned for the Constitution per se, only their own power to get this ball rolling.
Democrats are also set to vote on the quaintly named Commercial Advertising Loudness Mitigation, or CALM, Act, which will regulate the volume of ads on TV. The FCC received tens of thousands of complaints about blaring ads in the first quarter alone this year, but to those who say, “There oughta be a law,” be careful what you wish for — Congress is always willing to oblige.
In the meantime, a massive tax increase awaits all Americans if action isn’t taken to preserve current rates that expire on Dec. 31. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) engineered a rule-making vote that prevents Republicans from offering amendments to stop all of the Democrats’ tax increases from kicking in, and the House voted to extend rates for those earning less than $250,000 a year. Those earning more, i.e. small businesses, will be saddled with a job-killing tax hike. The White House and congressional Republicans are still trying to make a deal.
Senate Republicans have vowed to block legislation of any kind until bills dealing with taxes and funding the government are passed. It’s likely that a temporary extension of all tax rates will garner enough support from both parties to pass, but that merely kicks the can down the road. Rates should be lowered again and permanently, not raised, even if the economy improves. Congress should be focused on reducing taxes and cutting spending, not monkeying around in the school lunch room.