Dave Camp, Republican Chair of the Ways and Means Committee in the US House of Representatives, put out a press release twelve days ago that appears to indicate a disturbing new ‘backdoor’ strategy to achieve GOP policy goals. Referring to a bill that would shore up the Highway Trust Fund until next May, Camp refused to consider any new revenue for the nation’s most important infrastructure law:
I certainly do not support permanent tax increases to pay for just 10 months of highway programs. Furthermore, it is inconceivable that the House would, as the Senate proposes to do, grant the IRS additional authority to audit and investigate taxpayers simply so Washington can spend more money.
As noted by Chuck Marr at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, the so-called “permanent tax increases” that Camp dismisses here are actually tax compliance provisions — measures that require disclosure of mortgage transactions and define what is a “substantial omission of income” on a tax return. Coming on the heels of the House’s efforts to gut IRS enforcement budgets, this is an obvious attack on the IRS’s core mission of enforcement and collection. Having failed to block the Affordable Care Act, or to altogether eliminate tax burdens on billionaires, or kill Social Security, the new Republican plan is to shrink federal revenue by destroying the agency that collects it.
This is also a shortcut to enacting one of the more fantastical libertarian ideas out there: replacing our federal highways with toll roads. When bridges crumble and pavement cracks, states and localities that can’t get repair money from a gridlocked Washington will turn to private corporations, and commuters will find themselves paying more than ever for the privilege of getting to work on time.