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George F. Will: Signs of grown-ups in charge

Modified: April 26, 2013 at 2:48 pm •  Published: April 28, 2013
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Last week, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Finance Committee, announced he will not seek a seventh term next year. Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., Baucus' tax-writing counterpart, is term-limited by Republican rules as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. So the two most important people in the most urgent legislative project — tax reform to ignite economic growth — have parallel incentives to work quickly. And if Democrats still control the Senate in 2015, Finance, the Senate's most important committee, probably will be chaired by Oregon's Ron Wyden, who has the intellectual power and political independence of such previous Democratic luminaries on Finance as Louisiana's Russell Long, Texas' Lloyd Bentsen and New York's Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

In a burst of the bipartisanship we are told to revere, a coalition of Republican and Democratic senators rose above party differences last week to affirm class solidarity. They moved toward a tax increase of at least $22 billion to benefit the political class at the state and local levels. Because Baucus opposes the legislation to enrich state and local governments by subjecting Internet commerce to state and local sales taxes, Majority Leader Harry Reid brought it directly to the floor, bypassing the Finance Committee. One reason the Republican-controlled House should reject this tax increase is that much of the revenue will be passed on to public employees and, through their unions, to Democrats' campaigns.

Finally, last week Earth Day passed with less notice than was given to the approaching death of another planet-saver, Fisker Automotive Inc. The electric car maker's slide toward Solyndra-style bankruptcy has been greased with $192 million in government loans. Fisker is a redundant demonstration of the government's incompetence as a venture capitalist, and of the decay of environmentalism into cranky gestures. Although electric cars are 40 percent powered by coal, that being the percentage of U.S. electricity generated by coal, Fisker was supposed to combat global warming, of which there has been essentially none for 15 years. As adult supervision returns, Washington may take seriously the bad news about its harebrained green investments and the good news that refutes the argument for more of them.

George Will's email address is georgewill@washpost.com.

WASHINGTON POST WRITERS GROUP