Tax Me: Everyone Wants Cuts, but Not the Consequences
President Obama rolled out his proposals for a new budget this week, the first of the “Win the Future” era.
The President’s budget emphasizes education, innovation and infrastructure investment for growth and targeted spending cuts to reduce the deficit. The administration also proposes closing tax loopholes to add nearly $300 billion in revenues.
Not surprisingly, the cuts are not draconian enough for the GOP, and closing tax loopholes is a non-starter. Republican leadership has deemed the president’s budget DOA — “Debt On Arrival.” (Those guys have a bumper sticker for everything.)
Instead, they advocate cuts that would adversely affect law enforcement, education, food safety and mental health. The Republicans believe they were swept into leadership in the House with a mandate to slash government spending. Actually, it was more of a “throw the bums out” mandate than any particular issue, but Americans do support spending cuts in general.
When you get specific on cuts, the clear mandate gets foggy. Polling by the Pew Research Center shows that Americans want to see spending slashed but that majorities do not support specific cuts in anything but foreign aid.
It’s even worse on the state level, where majorities oppose deficit spending, budget cuts and tax increases — leading economist Paul Krugman to remark: “The conclusion is inescapable: Republicans have a mandate to repeal the laws of arithmetic.”
The president’s budget has been criticized, not unfairly, for not addressing entitlements, wahich account for three-quarters of the budget and contribute mightily to the deficit. House Republicans promise to deal with entitlements when they roll out their own budget in April. But for now, they’re not giving out any specifics.
On Tuesday, the president said the issue should be addressed behind closed door in bipartisan negotiations. That is undoubtedly so. Everyone wants to take credit for being fiscally responsible; no one wants to be responsible for scaling back programs that most Americans will eventually depend on.
The truth is that politicians long ago suspended the laws of arithmetic. Americans have willingly bought into the lie that you can simultaneously revive the economy, address the deficit and reduce taxes. That idea is to economics what alchemy is to chemistry.
At the risk of committing what passes for treason these days, let me literally put in my two cents: Tax me.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t like paying taxes any more than you do, but what we pay for says everything about what we value. Among the $775 billion in discretionary spending reductions the president proposes is one to cut nearly in half a $5.1 billion energy assistance program for the poor. This is the greatest country on earth. We do not balance our budget by leaving our elderly and indigent exposed and vulnerable. Tax me.
The Republicans have proposed drastic cuts in funding for law enforcement. If I or mine are at risk, I don’t want some untrained video-game-addicted vigilante protecting us. Tax me.
The president’s budget plans to prepare “100,000 new science, technology, engineering, and math teachers.” But as state houses across the country freeze or reduce education budgets and raise tuition, one wonders where those teachers will go.
I want my granddaughter to compete on equal footing with young people from countries that value education. I want to know that her teachers and professors are well-trained, well-equipped and fairly compensated. Tax me.
My pockets are extremely shallow. But since we can’t tax the people who can afford to pay taxes lest we risk the jobs they might create if they were actually creating jobs, tax me.
It is inconsistent with my faith and my regard for my fellow Americans in a time of hardship to don colonial garb, wrap a flag around my greed and call it patriotism. If we would do more than pay lip service to the things we value, tax me.
Kevin Smith lives in Aberdeen. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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