WASHINGTON -- Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said on Sunday that House Republicans would oppose President Barack Obama's payroll tax cuts for both employers and employees, arguing that the policy had already failed to provide a sufficient boost to the economy. "It hasn't worked," Ryan said, suggesting the current temporary tax cut should be allowed to expire, which will amount to a 50 percent tax hike on workers making less than $106,000 per year.
He also said he opposes the president's proposal to require millionaires to pay the same tax rate as the middle class, known as the Buffett plan. "Class warfare might make for good politics, but it makes for rotten economics," Ryan said.
As chairman of the House Budget Committee and the author of a long-term plan that radically alters Medicare and slashes tax rates for the wealthy as well as social spending, Ryan serves as something of an economic spokesman for House Republicans.
GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain, who followed Ryan on "Fox News Sunday," seconded his opposition to the tax on millionaires as well as the payroll tax cut extensions. "It's too little, too late," said Cain.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), appearing later on NBC's "Meet The Press," said he too would oppose taxing millionaires at a higher rate, citing Obama's own comments from 2010, when the president argued that taxes shouldn't be raised during rough economic times. "I think what he said then still applies," McConnell said, insisting that small businesses would be hurt by such a tax plan.
As for the namesake of the Buffett plan, McConnell said that if billionaire investor Warren Buffett feels like he's not paying his fair share, "he should send us a check."
"If Warren Buffett would like to give up some of his benefits, we'd be happy to talk about that," McConnell said, suggesting his benefits be means-tested.
Ryan, while backing a payroll tax hike, nevertheless said that tax hikes cannot be part of the deficit-cutting proposal that the super committee comes up with. As part of his explanation, Ryan made it clear that he sees no difference between raising taxes proactively and allowing tax breaks to expire. "You already have a $1.5 trillion tax increase coming in 2013," he said, referring to the expiration of the Bush tax cuts that were extended by President Obama for two years. Ryan's reference to the expiration as an "increase" gives greater weight to his willingness to let tax cuts for the middle class expire.
Because of the looming Bush tax cut expiration, said Ryan, the super committee should eschew tax hikes. "Why on earth would we go with that, especially when the problem is spending?" he said.
"You're basically saying there's going to be no bargain, no compromise," host Chris Wallace pointed out.
"Clearly, Democrats could work with us" and get $1.5 trillion in spending cuts with no additional revenue, Ryan said. "That shouldn't be that tough."
As for the budgetary woes outside Washington, Ryan said, "We just don't think we should be bailing out state governments." He added, "That's the constitutional responsibility of state governments, not federal governments."
Former President Bill Clinton, appearing on CBS's "Face The Nation," backed Obama's tax hike on millionaires, but suggested that the singular focus should be on job creation, with tax increases on the wealthy coming once the economy improves. "I don't have any objection to talking about it now," said Clinton. "Whether it's good politics or not, it's an honorable thing to do."
Clinton urged passage of the payroll tax cut extension and the creation of an infrastructure bank to fund investments. He also hit at the major drag on the economy. "I don't believe America can return to the full employment days of the '90s until we can clear this bank debt from the mortgage crisis," he said.