"Who put canned laughter into my crucifixion scene?" - Charles Simic
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Why Tax Cuts Aren't a 'Cost', and Why a 'Robin Hood Government' Deserves Our Support
I keep seeing this chart pop up, and I've got some problems with it. It implies that George Bush was a way bigger spender than President Obama, although 1) it compares Bush's full 2 terms to Obama's (almost) first term. If you take that into consideration, Obama's well on his way to outspending Bush. 2) You can't count tax cuts as 'new costs'. It's true that drastic cuts should have accompanied these tax cuts, but they were not 'new costs'. To say tax cuts are a cost is to imply that the government owns all of our money, and is really only lending it to us. That's not how our system works. When you take out the big tax cut chunk from the Bush column, you get a clearer picture of how it is. Also, where's Libya on this chart?
I am a committed liberal, but this is a losing strategy. If we have to misconstrue information to win elections, we're lost (at least morally). Saying 'Bush did it too!' and finding a way to make it look like he did it more doesn't address the issue.
The correct way to address the issue would be to ask what Bush spent money on. Was it worthwhile? Was it better or worse than what President Obama is spending money on? President Obama has spent a lot of money. He is putting a down payment on a working welfare state, and it's a worthwhile investment. He's spent the money on the 'it's easier to ask forgiveness than get permission principle', and is now looking for ways to offset the cost of the infrastructure he has invested in. As far as considering tax cuts a 'cost': it's dishonest. Taxes are monies collected from citizens by force; if you don't give the money that is demanded of you, you go to jail, and the government takes things away from you. People work for money, and the electorate--through the government--demands a certain amount of it to pay for things it wants or needs. It's a messy system we have, and it's a system that will always have victims. We should try to limit the amount of victimization that occurs, but if there has to be some victimization, liberals--like me--are of a mind that it's better to take more from people who have more to give than from people who have less (or nothing) to give. The most educated and wealthy among us voted for Obama more often than not in the last election, so we can take that as at least a tacit endorsement of this kind of redistribution. Even if this group didn't vote the way it did, pluralists and democrats (big D) should support this model. If we are truly going to give everyone in this country a fair shot, we have a lot of inequality to make up for. A true meritocracy would make sure that everyone in the game is playing by the same rules, and that competition--a guiding principle of our nation--would be fair.
So, tax cuts aren't a cost, because the money didn't start off in government hands. Taxes are taken, and taxes should be taken. Some folks should give more. It is also moral--and in everyone's self interest--to ensure that competition occurs on a level playing field, and that everyone who lives in our society is offered a shot at self actualization. This is the ultimate goal of a free society; not everyone will achieve this goal, but if we're serious about it, we'll make sure there are as few barriers in everyone's way as possible.