The Hill: Liberal Democrats: Higher rates for wealthy 'just the beginning'

November 30, 2012

By Jonathan Easley 11/30/12

A group of House Democrats has formed its own "Gang of Six... to push for progressive tax reform – in which the expiration of the Bush-era tax rates for the wealthiest Americans is "just the beginning....

"In response to the call for progressives to draw a red line in the fiscal cliff sand, here is our big picture stance on corporate and individual tax reform,... Rep. Michael Honda (D-Calif.) said in a statement. "Six progressive tax principles from a new Gang of Six. The expiration of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans is just the beginning of the discussion....

The progressive group also includes Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), and Barbara Lee (D-Calif).

The group says "low and moderate-income Americans are already contributing to deficit reduction,... and that "progressive tax reform is the only way that wealthy Americans can share significantly in that sacrifice....
The group outlined six tenets of a progressive tax policy. They say it must be revenue positive, promote responsible corporate behavior, be a "global system,... have "fair rates... for the wealthiest taxpayers, reexamine expenditures that benefit the wealthy, and protect the poor and elderly.

Some of the group's proposed policies are in line with the "fairness... doctrine that President Obama staked his reelection efforts on.
"To maintain or strengthen progressivity, we should end one of the leading contributors to after-tax income inequality in this country, the special tax breaks for investment income,... the group said in its statement, released Thursday. "Workers who get their salaries from wages often pay a higher effective tax rate than wealthy individuals like Mitt Romney and Warren Buffett who make most of their income from selling stocks and bonds or from dividends....

Republicans are pushing to renew all of the Bush-era tax rates ahead of the Jan. 1 "fiscal cliff... deadline. A handful of Republicans, led by Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), have said they're willing to lock in rates for those making less than $250,000 annually now but would want to negotiate cuts for those making more in the new year. 

The new "Gang of Six" Democrats draws its name from a bipartisan Senate Gang of Six that, during the 2011 debt ceiling debate, produced a plan to reduce the deficit by $3.7 trillion over the next 10 years and increase tax revenues by $1 trillion by closing a variety of special tax breaks and havens.

The plan was negotiated by Sens. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.). It was ignored by Congress, which instead formed a deficit-cutting "supercommittee... that failed to strike a deal and left them to grapple with the current Jan. 1 "fiscal cliff... deadline.