EDITORIAL: Does Washington have an ethics problem?

Jan. 09, 2013 @ 08:25 AM

The late President Harry S. Truman spoke with a great deal of candor, and there's a long list of quotes attributed to him. One we're particularly fond of is this: ”A person who is fundamentally honest doesn't need a code of ethics. The Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount are all the ethical code anybody needs."

Regardless of whether one agrees with President Truman’s policies and decisions, it appears to us that the public would be much better served if politicians in Washington would at least on occasion remind themselves of these particular words.

As has been pointed out earlier in this space, the federal government's “fiscal cliff” could have been avoided. Indeed, it would have been had elected officials acted ethically.

The fiscal cliff deal — passed in the dark of night — is just the latest unethical conduct by Washington politicians. The legislation, hailed as a “tax cut for the middle class,” came out of a classic, deliberately created crisis that would not have occurred had the perpetrators been honest with those they claim to serve.

As usual, we learned much more about the contents of the bill after it was passed.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the bill will add $4 trillion to the national debt over the next 10 years.

Contrary to the claim by those pushing it, the fiscal cliff bill will have an insignificant impact upon the taxes paid by the super rich who derive their income from investments. Rather, it is those who are working who will feel the greatest impact from the tax hikes now in place. The political class recognizes that confiscating all the money from the super rich will not bring in the amount of revenue that they are determined to spend.

One of the more objectionable parts of the fiscal cliff deal is that tax increases upon the so-called “rich” apply to 77 percent of Americans. It’s doubtful that 77 percent of the population consider themselves rich.

Not only will working Americans take home less pay because of higher taxes, their jobs will be in jeopardy because the tax rates upon families and small business owners earning more $450,000 a year were increased from 35 percent to 39.6 percent. Add in the tax rate increase in the new healthcare bill, and the new rate is about 44 percent for these earners — meaning that almost half of those folks’ earnings will be taken by the federal government. And this is before state and local income taxes are seized.

President Obama and others told the public that the legislation would be a balance between tax increases and spending cuts. As could be predicted, the tax increases of about $330 billion kicked in, and the spending-cuts can was kicked down the road.

The politicians didn't forget their friends who contribute the most to their campaigns. The 157-page bill contains pork for sanctioned energy schemes, Hollywood film producers, algae and asparagus growers, rum makers outside of the U.S. and motor race track owners.

Only politicians could tell the public with a straight face that they're fixing a spending problem with an increase in spending.

Americans might be better represented if the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount were required reading for Washington politicians.