Liddick: Tax-cut debate misses point of government’s real mission (column)
February 12, 2018
Let's begin with simple economics for the historically uninformed, who argue that tax-rate cuts cause ballooning deficits: Treasury statistics show that previous tax rate cuts all the way back to JFK created dramatic increases in tax revenue. The anomaly with Reagan's 1981 cuts is that they were phased in over three years, so their effects were felt mostly after 1984. And the small budget surpluses of the Clinton years were not caused by revenue increases, but by reducing spending growth.
This is lost on the punditocracy and our putative representatives in Washington, who accept the hypnotic notion that the Federal government exists to transfer money from one group of Americans to another. It is a paralyzing fantasy and the faster Congress can disabuse itself of the idea, the better off we will be.
Now, questions and answers. What did we learn from the latest budget donnybrook and mini-shutdown in the capital of dysfunction known as Washington, D.C.? Aside from the fact that one of Nancy Pelosi's grandchildren wants to be someone else, and she sees nothing wrong with sharing his identity crisis with the world because she thinks it helps her argument? I'm not certain what that says about her grandmothering skills, but there we are.
We have also learned that when it comes to spending other people's money, there isn't a whit of difference between the average congressional Republican and his or her Democrat counterpart. We saw for ourselves that when principles and accountability are raised in argument against an orgy of new spending, most of the vociferous budget hawks of yesteryear ran for the rocks faster than a gecko with a roadrunner on its tail. Eight years of voting for Republicans, and all we got was this lousy trillion-dollar deficit.
Here's a question for all the surrender-monkeys who threw up their hands when faced with a challenge, on the flimsiest of pretenses that without more money the government would close and the world would end: why should any of your constituents believe anything you say again, about anything? Sen. Rand Paul said it best: "When the Democrats are in power, Republicans appear to be the conservative party; but when Republicans are in power, it seems there is no conservative party. The hypocrisy hangs in the air and chokes anyone with a sense of decency or intellectual honesty."
For all Republicans who decried Obama's deficits but who have no problem with Trump's, another question: among the proposals in the past few days, was one which increased defense spending but held all other budget lines at zero growth. Why did you not act as you promised you would? It would have exposed you to unpleasant demagoguery, but if you think rolling over fixes that, you should find another line of work. This was an opportunity missed to finally turn the corner on an ever-expanding and more expensive government, and you blew it.
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Instead of insisting on a real budget, Republicans swallowed another continuing resolution, a sleight-of-hand trick to fund the growth of the federal government in a way that slowly chokes off constitutional functions while ensuring that the dispersals-to-individuals gravy train expands without limit. It also gives virtually total control of the funding process to Congressional leadership, presenting ordinary senators and representatives with a take-it-or-leave-it choice of budgetary priorities congenial to Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.
The worst thing about this series of unfortunate events is that it was unnecessary. If the president had announced in January of 2017 that he would under no circumstances sign another continuing resolution, demanding instead that Congress do its constitutional duty to produce a budget or face the political consequences, we would not be in this situation.
If Congressional Republicans had stood up and insisted the same — and as well, that funding would be provided in proportion to the centrality of the activity to the country's survival and prosperity — we would not be here. But once again, most Republican pols snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, while their constituents and those who voted for them with the thought that they at least offered some hope of reason in curbing the redistributionist policies that seem to be Washington's sole raison d'etre looked on in disgust and horror.
Republicans have now taken a hand in beggaring the country and saddling our children and grandchildren with crippling debt. Barack Obama doubled the national debt in eight years, from 10 to 20 trillion dollars; Republicans have just added another trillion. In their craven rush to go along to get along, they have betrayed both their constituents' hope and their own stated principals. In doing so, they have thrown another shovelful of dirt on the face of their party. A few more such, and they will need to go headstone shopping.
Email Morgan Liddick at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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