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Tax and spend again

By Joseph Randolph
web posted May 3, 2010

This past Tuesday the President made some remarks at the first meeting of his National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.  This is a committee tasked with providing recommendations for reducing the national debt.  The President's remarks give one little reason to think the committee will succeed. 

The President contended in part that "What also made these large deficits possible was that, for years, folks in Washington deferred politically difficult decisions and avoided telling hard truths about the nature of the problem. The fact is, it's always easier, when you're in public life, to share good news – to tell people want they want to hear instead of what they need to know. And, as the gentlemen behind me can attest, this has been the norm around Washington for a very long time when it comes to the state of our finances."

This boast about a difference between the political past and the political present, implied as the courageous willingness of the President to tell the truth about government and money, is downright deceptive.  The President opines that he will abandon the old "norm" and pioneer a new one.  That new norm will be something like pay as you go, and the President touts the idea with the façade of a frank realism about bill paying. 

The fact of the matter is that the President is simply posturing behind words with no courage and even less truth.  That is, this President loves his need-to-have programs only slightly less than the people whom they are supposed to benefit; what he will do to retain and maintain the programs is simply raise taxes.  His notion of any balanced budget is to pay for programs with Godzilla-like taxes, not to trim Godzilla-like government.  A pretense of deficit reduction will be the ruse employed to increase taxes.  The real plan is thus not to excise much of anything; it is to pay for costly programs with costly taxes.  Because paying bills proves extraordinarily difficult in times of monstrous deficits, you simply invent new kinds of taxes and more of them when the old ones fail to do the job.

It is a complete misperception, therefore, to see in the diversionary shuffle toward debt reduction any real attempt, despite the President's words, to significantly rein in spending.  To the President, we will tax at a level commensurate with our spending, but our spending is not going down, and need not, because our taxes will go up. What can be misleading in this equation is the charade of concern for a balanced budget, when the real concern is to keep all the programs running by taxing at an exponentially outrageous rate to pay for an obscene number of obese programs.  Of course there are some yet to be born and thus more taxes to bear in the future. 

Though much of the talk about debt reduction is pivoted around the proverbial but usually meaningless phraseology of "everything is on the table," what is on the table is the wrong issue.  On this table is how to tax to pay for the exorbitant spending of the President's administration, not the exorbitant spending itself.  We ordinary mortals call this maneuver government as usual, though much much worse than usual. The President's new norm is thus in fact the old norm made now even older.  Nothing is new, except we have another new President committed to even fancier and fanciful rhetoric that portends old disabling ideas, paraded falsely as novel ideas giving us "hope."  This is no change to believe in because there is no change, except to increase tax loads on the backs of the people who pay for government to increase as they decrease. 

So, the President and his coterie have it all backwards.  Raising taxes is the effect of a government refusing to diet, while the people of the country are forced to shrink their budgets as the government grows a colossal bill to be paid for by the people.  Of course the President would have us believe that he is adamant to see us pay the bills, when in fact he has grown the bills to such size that the injection of new and more and bigger taxes is the only antidote he knows to bring down the swelling bills and so too, us.   

To be fair, however, the President has spent virtually all of his professional life in a bubbled environment; he cannot be expected to know, much less do, what ordinary mortals know and do when their bills are larger than their wallets.  By the same token, and as Bill Buckley famously said, we would have done better to pick a random name out of the phone book. ESR

Joseph Randolph is an academic and writer living in Wisconsin.  His 2010 book Debilitating Democracy: Power From The People, is available from Wasteland Press and Amazon as well as Barnes and Noble.  His email address is jqrandolph@hotmail.com.

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