Ever since Reagan, the unending call of conservatism has been to cut taxes and cut ’em deep. The theory is that with massive cuts in revenues, Congress would have no choice but to start cutting back on spending. What we saw through the Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II years is that the plan backfired. Instead of paring back on spending, Congress showed an incredible lack of willpower and whipped out the national credit card to make up the difference. Apparently the “starve the beast” approach didn’t work despite 20 years of White House policy enforcing it, so why are conservatives still marching behind it?
That’s the question that Bruce Bartlett asked last week in Forbes. Since huge deficits don’t make people call their Congresscritters and demand reductions in spending, perhaps raising taxes across the board to cover the increased cost of government largess would do it. Let me say right now with no qualification that we should all be expected to pay the full cost of the government services which we are receiving. If it can’t be paid for with taxes or savings, the money simply is not there to spend.
I know, it sounds like crazy talk, the same kind of crazy talk that President George H. W. Bush was talking in 1990 when he expended a mountain of political capital to institute PAYGO rules. These same rules were likely responsible for large balance-sheet surpluses in the 90’s. True to form, though, Congress used all of it and then some on increased spending leading to an even larger national debt. (Not much of a surplus if you ask me.) If this situation sounds rather recent and familiar, replace the word Congress with California legislature and you get an idea of how this story ends.
So what are we to do? It seems that there is an insatiable demand for increased services and decreased taxes from the citizenry and the federal government has been trying to placate both. I say raise taxes to pay for these services and see what happens. It can’t be any worse than saddling future generations with a debt costing many times what it does now and just maybe a few more people will be willing to give on their demands for government services.