Obsitnik speaks of ‘tax armageddon’ at Greenwich Republican Women’s Forum

With the “Bush tax cuts” set to automatically expire at the end of this calendar year, are we headed for “tax armageddon”?

Members of the Republican Party sure think so and it was the topic of a Saturday morning discussion of the Greenwich Republican Women’s Forum earlier this month. With congressional candidate Steve Obsitnik, who is challenging incumbent Democrat Rep. Jim Himes (D-4) on hand as the speaker, the forum focused on what is viewed by Republicans as the potentially disastrous effects of allowing the tax cuts, which were pushed forward during the presidency of George W. Bush, to expire.

Mr. Obsitnik, who is campaigning throughout the district, spoke to the forum about his own personal history and his run for office, but focused on the impending tax cut expiration, which he said would take the country “off the fiscal cliff” if it happens.

“We need to be able to make hard decisions while also balancing it with protecting fiscal growth,” Mr. Obsitnik said to the Post. “Navigating through this while also keeping our job growth engine moving, because is hasn’t over the past four years, is on a lot of people’s minds. I think if you look at the predictions you’ll see that if we allow ‘tax armageddon’ to hit then the GDP will come down by 3.5 absolute points. If we were growing at 1.5 points, that would send us into a recession of minus two, according to most economists.”

The forum is a project created by Rosa Fini, a local pediatrician and member of the Greenwich Republican Town Committee (RTC). This was their second public event and Dr. Fini said that she wants to hold at least two events a year to talk about the issues of the day and what solutions are out there. While she has formed unquestionably a partisan group, Dr. Fini said that she felt there was a need to “engage in valuable conversation” based on data.

“The country needs to get away from a strict way of thinking,” Dr. Fini said. “What we do is focus on analyzing data that’s essentially non partisan. For instance, in June we looked over the Simpson Bowles Commission Report and then had a panelist to help us understand what the implications are on a local, state and national level. And when we look at tax cuts expiring we want to discuss what the implications are of keeping them and not keeping them. I think it’s extremely important to know that information, especially since we are in an election season.”

Dr. Fini said she was thrilled to have Mr. Obsitnik on hand for the forum to talk about the importance of preventing tax increases. She said having the tax cuts expire along with new provisions of the Affordable Care Act, which she does not support, coming into effect would “kick whatever recovery we’re having right down into the gutter.”

Republicans are not the only ones concerned with the expiration of the tax cuts. Democrats, including Mr. Himes, have recently tried in the U.S. House of Representatives to separate the tax cuts so that the ones for the middle class would be able to continue and the ones for the wealthiest Americans would expire. However, that failed on a party line vote with Republicans voting against it.

Mr. Obsitnik finds himself in a unique position since if elected he would not take office until after the deadline for extending the tax cuts. So even if he defeats Mr. Himes in November, he would not be able to act on this issue. Because of that he said he favors a one-year extension of all the Bush tax cuts so the new Congress would be able to act after a year’s worth of study on what the best strategy will be and action on entitlements and tax reform.

“I think Jim Himes is supporting a tax increase on the middle class,” Mr. Obsitnik said. “If you look at the impact of increasing taxes now, 60% of that falls on the backs of the middle class. That’s primarily why I want to extend it out into the future. We need to look at comprehensive tax reform. If you allow it to expire now like the way Jim Himes wants it to expire, it will fall hardest on the middle class.”

Not surprisingly, the Himes campaign hit back hard, telling the Post that Mr. Himes and his fellow Democrats are fighting for continuing the tax cuts to the middle class while Mr. Obsitnik “remains silent” on Republican proposals that Democrats claim would end tax credits for millions of families to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy.

“Mr. Obsitnik is just plain wrong,” Himes for Congress Campaign Manager Justin Myers said in a statement to the Post. “During his three years in Congress, Jim has consistently voted to keep taxes low for the middle class. Mr. Obsitnik, like the Tea Party extremists he hopes to join in the House, insists on holding tax breaks for 98% of Americans hostage in order to secure tax cuts for the most affluent. If Mr. Obsitnik succeeds in joining the ranks of the Ryan Plan supporters, our middle class would end up paying for tax cuts we can’t afford to individuals that don’t need them, when what we actually need is a strong middle class to propel the economy forward.”

Like Mr. Obsitnik, Dr. Fini does not believe in ending any of the Bush tax cuts. She cites a report from the accounting firm of Ernst & Young to say that tax increases would “hamper growth to the point of it being almost non existent” and claim it would have “serious impact on middle class quality of life.” Dr. Fini has thrown her full support behind Mr. Obsitnik in his election against Mr. Himes and called him a “great candidate who has lived the American dream.”

While this is a women’s forum in name, everyone is invited and the audience on Saturday included prominent town Republicans like former Selectman Peter Crumbine, Tax Collector Tod Laudonia and RTC Chairman Jim Campbell along with State Rep. Livvy Floren (R-149). Dr. Fini said she wanted to be able to attract a core group of people and not just from her friends and colleagues on the RTC.

“The flavor is Republican, there’s no question, but the hope is our conversation is not too biased,” Dr. Fini said. “I’m Republican because I feel their positions are based on common sense. You can’t spend money if you don’t have it. We’re in a dire situation on the state and federal level and thank God our local people do a great job here in our local government. People are really hurting out there. The middle class is suffering from policies that devalue our dollar while the cost of living is going up in everything from gasoline to food. The silver lining, if there is one, is that we have an election coming up and we can try and impact our future.”

Dr. Fini said she has not set this up to stop after this coming November’s presidential and congressional elections. She said she hopes the discussion “resonates in the community and continues to be valuable.” They’ve focused on economic issues so far because Dr. Fini said that’s “reflective of what’s important” these days, but there could well be different topics down the line.

Given a number of new restrictive laws in other states when it comes to women’s health and reproductive rights as well as ongoing efforts from some Republican members of Congress to end federal funding for Planned Parenthood, Democrats have been quick to make what they call the Republican “war on women” a major campaign issue. Dr. Fini says she rejects that idea and that her group shows there are women eager to stand behind Republican principles.

“I think it’s a big distraction from what’s really important in this election, which is the economy,” Dr. Fini said. “This language started when Catholic institutions started pushing back on contraception issues. This isn’t really a war on women from that perspective. I see it as a war on freedom of religion so I do have a different perspective on it. The Democrats are trying to make this about women’s health, which I feel is a derangement of what’s really going on.”


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