Editor’s note: The following is the first in a series of stories based upon an interview conducted Monday afternoon with U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., at the Starkville Daily News offices. Today’s installment deals with Harper’s comments on extension of the Bush tax cuts and federal government spending. Other installments will be published over the next few days to address other issues.
U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper has had a whirlwind few days in Mississippi while Congress has recessed briefly before heading back later this week to finish work before its scheduled recess early next month.
That has included a few days in Starkville to enjoy a visit with his daughter, Maggie, a freshman at Mississippi State, and to appear at an energy town hall meeting held on the MSU campus Monday evening.
As Harper, R-Miss., completes his first term and heads toward a general election contest with Democratic Party nominee Joel Gill and Reform Party nominee Tracella Lou O’Hara Hill, Harper is already looking ahead to what will be ahead in the next term of Congress — a term he predicts will see a Republican majority in both the House of Representatives and Senate following the Nov. 2 general election.
“Probably the biggest single issue facing us for the rest of this year is what will happen with the extension of the Bush tax cuts,” said Harper, referring to the tax cut package passed in the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act in 2003 as proposed by then-President George W. Bush.
The tax cut issue is one that will directly affect the economic recovery of the nation, Harper said.
The tax cuts — individual rates, capital gains, dividends and estate tax cuts — are scheduled to expire at the end of this year. The income tax cuts were adopted on a graduated scale according to individual income levels.
Not extending the tax cuts will impact Americans at all income levels, Harper said Monday.
“If nothing is done, then on Jan. 1, 2011, you will see the single largest tax increase in the history of the United States,” said Harper. “It will have a great impact at every level, particularly for the middle class. Every tax rate will go up.”
It would also mean that the nation’s estate tax — commonly referred to as the “death tax — would return at the beginning of the year. The estate tax is imposed on the transfer of the “taxable estate” of a deceased person, whether by will, life insurance or other means.
The estate tax is something he believes “needs to be permanently done away with,” Harper said.
“It’s really hurt a lot of family farms and other folks in Mississippi over the years, and we need to lay it to rest,” Harper said.
There has also been discussion by congressional officials — among them House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. — over allowing the cuts to expire for those making at least $250,000.
“The problem with our current economic and tax situation is those that making $250,000 are the small business owners who are doing the hiring and fueling the economic recovery,” Harper said. “They’re waiting to see what will happen with the rates.”
Federal government spending is another issue that will affect the nation’s economy. Harper said the current level of spending is a “roadblock and a detriment to what we’re doing” to try to create jobs.
“Non-defense discretionary spending went up by 84 percent the first year of President Obama’s administration. Deficit spending hit $1.4 trillion in the first year of a leadership with Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, (D-Nev., Senate majority leader) as composed to $400 billion in President Bush’s last year,” Harper said. “And there’s no real end in sight.”
Should Republicans win a majority of the House and Senate seats in November’s general election, there will be a push in 2011 to significantly reduce federal government spending to “pre-stimulus and and pre-bailout levels,” Harper said.
“That would be a significant amount. When we talk about the loss of jobs across the country ..., the federal government had the nerve to add over 25,000 new federal employees over the last year,” Harper said.
“We should be setting the standard and getting out of the way so that business can do its work.”