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$300 Is Not Enough

June 14, 2001

Tags Big GovernmentTaxes and SpendingU.S. EconomyFiscal Theory

The federal tax cut that recently passed Congress and was signed into law by our Potomac Janissary is too small, but it’s better than nothing. 

So we’ll each receive $300 this summer. Big deal. 

The average driver here in New York City pays more than that in a few weeks (days?) of negotiating our potholed government highways, which all seem to be lined with touchy toll-takers every mile or two. 

The average American, over the next few paychecks, will pay more than $300 in skyrocketing payroll taxes—which support a flawed, economically rotten Social Security and Medicare system that’s going bankrupt despite dozens of tax increases over the past thirty years. 

The average middle-class taxpayer—whose income has increased because he or she has taken on extra work so that these infernal, ubiquitous taxes can be paid—will shell out more than $300 in a few pay periods.

So, am I grateful that our keepers actually allowed us a few extra crumbs this year? Yes. My reasoning is that, when forced by political goons to choose between two unpleasant alternatives, take the lesser of two evils. In this case a puny little tax is less obnoxious than the alternative: no tax cut, which would mean more money hanging around Washington for pols to spend on their pet projects and then call it "investment."

What do I mean by the alternative to the tax cut?

Recently, my congressman, a young liberal Democrat from Brooklyn, sent me a letter in which he explained why he voted against the tax cut. Congressman Anthony Weiner is no better or worst than most of the brigands—Republican or Democratic—who gather all too frequently in Congress. I suppose other congressional members also have photo galleries of themselves at their Web sites as does the photogenic Weiner (with his blow-dried 'do), although why taxpayers should pay for all this tonterias escapes me.

When it comes to bringing home the bacon to his district, Weiner never met a spending program he didn’t like. Like most of his colleagues in the political racket, Weiner speaks his own language. 

"This tax cut threatens our ability to make investments in key social programs," he writes. Allow me to translate. This means: "We just haven’t spent enough money so that me and my buddies can go back to our districts and take credit for more pork. If we cut taxes, my God, where would we get the money to generate more power for ourselves, and how would I hire more staff flunkies? We’d rather have the money in our pockets in Washington than in your pockets, where we can’t control it. Besides, you wouldn’t know what to do with your own money. You’d just waste it! We’ll take care of it for you. Hey! You’re welcome!"

Here’s more from our Boy Socrates: "I believe most Americans want a tax cut, but not if it means crumbling schools."  

What crumbling schools? I frequently pass the private schools in my neighborhood, and, with much smaller budgets, they appear to be in much better shape than the public schools. And more important, the children in these private schools read, write, and think much more clearly than those in the public schools. They also don’t seem to assault each other. I see no armed guards in these private schools, which seem like pleasant places where—mirabile dictu—learning might actually be going on!

One wonders why, if something doesn’t work, the immediate answer of people like Weiner—and President Bush—is more federal aid to public education. What happened to the billions of dollars already poured down the public-school rat hole? What happened to all the money missing in the audit of the U.S. Department to Education? Where did it all go, and why do the taxpayers’ children receive so little in return?

But my "representative" has another reason why he voted against the tax cut: "The tax cut is fiscally irresponsible." Why are Weiner and his colleagues—again, both Republican and Democratic—now suddenly concerned about what is fiscally responsible? They never have been before. 

Why isn’t zero-based budgeting used by the federal government? Why aren’t there sunset provisions to close superfluous departments and commissions? Why have federal departments, at the end of fiscal years, gone on spending binges to ensure that their budgets can be justified? Where are the major spending cutbacks that have been proposed or that have even received a serious hearing in Congress?

The Soviet Union died a decade ago, along with the gulag. It is no longer a world power. However, the United States still spends hundreds of billions on the military, as though it was in the middle of the cold war. (And even in the middle of the cold war, it wasted money on weapons-spending designed to close a so-called "missile gap" that officials of President Kennedy’s administration later admitted never existed!) 

The United States hasn’t been an agricultural nation for more than a century, yet the Agriculture Department is still staffed as though we were all living on farms. In 1980, Ronald Reagan, the man media elites tell us "gutted" social programs during his two administrations, promised as president that he would close down the Departments of Education and Energy. Are those departments still around? And are they not bigger and fatter than ever, with budget increases every year regardless of whether the big-spending Democrats or the big-spending Republicans are in power? Does anyone doubt that there are still billions of dollars of fraud and waste found in the federal government? 

To say that this government reflects the wishes of the people means we must be a people with the principles of a band of drunken sailors who don’t care if our pockets are picked by a group of political thieves. That’s provided, of course, they’re our thieves. 

I can’t tell you the number of people I have come across who rationalize this government chicanery—provided, of course, that "their" party is in power. The greatest tragedy of our politics is the number of people who believe that the Democrats are the party of "good" politicians or that the Republicans are. Everything will be fine, provided "our" guys get in. 

These people have never read Ludwig von Mises or Lord Acton. These people never read H.L. Mencken, who said that, "an honest politician is as unthinkable as an honest burglar."

So, yes, I am happy that a small amount of money escaped the clutches of our ruling class—but I realize that it is no great triumph for our liberty or our wallets. They are in grave danger whenever Congress is in session or one of our imperial presidents concocts the latest harebrained scheme to establish utopia in these formerly free states. 

Given the tens of millions of poor fish who actually believe in people like Bush and Weiner, I wonder how it is that we are descendants of tax rebels who risked their lives with slogans such as, "Taxation without Representation is Tyranny." 

Yes, most of that generation included seminal thinkers and courageous men and women. They believed in ideas of liberty that the America of Big Daddy government now finds alien. They were inspired by Britain’s Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the best thinking of Rome and Greece. 

However, after seeing today’s wire-pullers, log-rollers, George Washington Plunkitts, and Boss Tweeds—a human flotsam and jetsam that appear to be a natural byproduct of democracy and "representation"—I think that Taxation with Representation isn’t exactly beer and skittles.


Gregory Bresiger, a writer and editor for Traders Magazine, has written for The Free Market as well as The Journal of Libertarian Studies. See his archive and send him Mail

See also Jim Ostrowski's proposal for a $21 Trillion Tax Cut.

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