By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Democrat candidates for U.S. Senate proposed “solutions to the nation’s economic woes” at a virtual forum Wednesday night. Their “solutions” would create more problems for inflation-beaten consumers and an economy teetering on recession, economic experts say.
One idea in particular would undercut the one “victory” Democrats have been able to point to in a brutal campaign season for the out-of-touch left.
The candidates are vying to be the party’s pick in next month’s primary and the Democrat to face off against Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson in November.
As motorists continue to confront record-high gas prices, front-runners — Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry, and Wisconsin State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski — support suspending the federal gas tax.
“Wisconsinites need relief from high gas prices now. I’m calling on congress to act immediately to suspend the federal gas tax,” Lasry, “privileged” son of a billionaire hedge fund manager, tweeted in December. The Democrat-controlled congress didn’t listen. The 18.4 cents per gallon tax remains in effect.
The tax freeze is a transparent election-year gimmick that wouldn’t do much for cash-strapped consumers who have paid north of $5 a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline this costly summer, economy watchers say.
“It’s a little bit of a solution in search of a problem. It’s not a real remedy for long-term inflation or for high gas prices,” said Andy Winkler, director of the housing and infrastructure project at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “It’s more of an election-year messaging bill that really won’t save them from hearing from constituents about rising gas prices.”
It’s more problematic than that for liberal politicians, however.
Barnes, Lasry, and the other Dem Senate candidates have touted President Joe Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure bill that passed Congress late last year. They wanted considerably more spending than the final reconciled legislation provides.
“If we’re gonna invest in Infrastructure, we gotta go big,” Barnes tweeted in Feb. 2021. He praised Biden’s original $2.3 billion infrastructure proposal as an “incredible opportunity.”
I wasn't just grasping at straws the other day. If we're gonna invest in infrastructure, we gotta go big.
The time is now and this is great to hear. Wisconsin deserves priority, plus Talgo is still in Milwaukee!! https://t.co/FSQzDUJMNn
— Mandela Barnes (@TheOtherMandela) February 5, 2021
While suspending the federal gas tax wouldn’t mean much for motorists saddled with historically high gas prices, it would mean a lot less money for infrastructure projects, “including Biden’s prized $1 trillion-plus Infrastructure Law,” according to a story last month in Politico.
“In short, the government would have less money for projects such as highways, transit, bridges and related programs involving the environment and racial equity…” Politico’s Tanya Snyder wrote in a piece headlined, “Who Gains from Pausing the Gas Tax? Probably Not Drivers.”
Dave Bauer, CEO of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, told Politico, “the single biggest pay-for for the infrastructure bill was the gas tax,” which contributed hundreds of billions of dollars to the bill. Without the gas tax, Bauer said, it would have been difficult for Congress to pass the bill.
“If you don’t count that foundational contribution from the existing user fees, I mean, how much harder would that have been?’ he told the publication. “Without that existing revenue foundation, they would have needed $200-250 billion more over the next five years.’”
Industry leaders say suspending the gas tax, including Biden’s proposal of a mere three-month tax holiday, would “strangle” the law “before it’s even up and running.” Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers said a suspension would disrupt funding.
Of course, the massive infrastructure package is part of the out-of-control spending in Washington — with the trillions blown on pandemic “relief” — that has pushed inflation rates to levels not seen in 40 years. The “infrastructure” bill includes tens of billions of dollars for projects that have little to nothing to do with America’s transportation needs and other public works initiatives.
But the Dem Senate candidates don’t care about the spending binge. They’ve campaigned on continuing it. What they want is voters to think they’re offering “solutions” when what they are calling for would undercut the big-spending infrastructure plan they love so much.
Meanwhile, Barnes is grabbing endorsements from the likes of U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-.N.Y.) and he and his liberal opponents are pledging to fight for AOC’s economy-killing Green New Deal, extremist climate change agenda.
“Our focus should be on increasing energy production here at home—to make manufacturers more competitive, to bring energy and gasoline prices down and to provide lasting relief for American families. We need the same smart, long-term approach that inspired the infrastructure bill to solve today’s energy challenges,” Timmons of the Association of Manufacturers said.