As they stood next to Charleston Harbor, four Republican congressmen, including House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, agreed that President Barack Obama's proposed $1.5 trillion tax increase would cause the nation's economy to sink, not swim.
U.S. Rep. Tim Scott, who invited McCarthy to tour his district, called Obama's proposed new revenues "simply unconscionable."
Part of Obama's new proposal would end tax cuts approved under President Bush, but McCarthy noted the president decided to extend those cuts just eight months ago. "What the president said then was raising taxes in a down economy would only hurt business," he said. "Why didn't he do it then if he thought it was so important?"
U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., said the solution should be bipartisan, pointing out that Democratic President John Kennedy and GOP President Ronald Reagan cut taxes and saw the economy rebound.
"There's absolutely no question that when you raise taxes, you destroy jobs and today may be a record," Wilson said. "I'm just shocked at the level of (proposed) tax increases. It's clearly an effort to grow big government."
U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., agreed and said the key is government getting out of the way and letting the private sector create more jobs. "Revenues will come back when more people are paying income taxes and spending money in the economy. They do that when they have a job."
While the Republicans were on the same page, some of the state's Democrats backed the president. State Rep. Wendell Gilliard, D-Charleston, said Obama's proposal, which also would increase taxes on the nation's biggest earners, "is only right."
"The rich should bear some burden for the economic relief of the whole country. The middle class can't bear the burden by themselves," he said. "Every time you hear the words, 'Cut, cut, cut, cut,' it's no solution. What are we supposed to do? Just shut government down? There is such a thing as fiscal responsibility, but nevertheless, you still need taxes to run government. That's the bottom line."
South Carolina's sole Democratic congressman, Rep. Jim Clyburn, serves on Congress' deficit reduction supercommittee and will receive Obama's recommendations. Clyburn said Monday that raising revenue "is just as important to the (committee's) success ... as job creation and spending cuts."
"There is no fairness in the system when the Warren Buffets in the country pay less proportionally in taxes than their assistants," Clyburn added. "All options must be on the table during these committee deliberations, and I believe we can and should reach a compromise on revenue by closing loopholes and lowering the corporate tax rate. I believe we should end the Bush tax cuts on all income above $1 million."
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., released a statement calling Obama's plan "poorly-timed, ill-conceived and dead on arrival."
Graham said he supports simplifying the tax code by eliminating deductions and loopholes and by lowering the rate. "However, increasing tax burdens on job creators is the last thing we ought to do in a weak economy," Graham said.
Scott said his goal for Monday was to show McCarthy firsthand the economic assets in his coastal congressional district, such as Boeing's new plant, the Medical University of South Carolina's Children's Hospital, the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR), and the port.
Even in a post-earmark era, Scott said it's important to tell the state's story to key congressional leaders. "I think the one thing I've always heard from South Carolina is they want to be able to compete on a level playing field," McCarthy said, adding that government does have an important role in creating the nation's infrastructure, such as dredging harbors.
One of the biggest issues for the state's congressional delegation has been securing federal dollars to deepen Charleston's port. "They're going to have to compete with every other port," McCarthy said of Charleston's port. "But it's right for members of Congress to come down and bring the accountability, to look at what's going on."