Fiscal Tourette’s Syndrome
You’ve probably heard about Tourette’s Syndrome. It is a genetic trait that, for some unknown and still unexplained reason, makes some people say really bad things out in public at really inopportune times.
I knew a young man who unfortunately had Tourette’s. A fine young man, very kind, very nice. Our son went to see him in the hospital one day to play video games and shoot some hoops to keep him company. When they got back in the elevator, this young 10-year-old started swearing like a sailor. The ladies’ eyes in the elevator got real wide real fast.
No one knew how he may have learned such words. They just came out of him. He didn’t even know what he was saying, most likely, and couldn’t really even remember what he said or when he said them.
I think there is a new syndrome that needs to be studied by psychologists, neuroscientists, and political scientists: Fiscal Tourette’s Syndrome.
Think of it as a genetic defect that causes someone in elective office reflexively to say things that just aren’t true in the real world. Such as: ‘Raising taxes will somehow, someway solve all of our nation’s spending addiction.’
Raising taxes won’t solve our spending problems. Never has. Never will.
Not even in the vaunted ‘Glory Days of Bill Clinton’ did higher taxes solve our deficit problem. You know what helped solve it the most? The GOP Congress restraining the overall growth in federal spending to 2% per annum for over half the decade of the ’90s. A strong economy coupled with the Internet boom made the revenue and expense lines of the federal government cross long about 1998 and stay that way for four years.
Sure, Bill Clinton’s tax hikes in 1993 got some delta revenue from rich people, those without very good tax accountants and lawyers anyway. But the bulk of the tax revenues that were in place that helped these lines cross in 1998 were the very ‘middle-class taxes’ paid by the middle-class that we are talking about today in Washington. Four-trillion dollars of them paid over a decade approximately. By you and me. Not Warren Buffett or Bill Gates.
The message that we often hear come from President Obama and his side of the aisle boils down to this: ‘We need to raise more taxes…in order to solve our spending problems in America!’
It doesn’t make any sense, does it? Unless President Obama is ready to sock it to the middle-class in terms of higher taxes again, like they got it under the Clinton years, he might want to stop saying he wants to return us to the ‘Golden Clinton Years’.
Even President Obama has to understand that even if he gets the full tax rates returned ‘on the rich’ (over $250,000 in income), that will only solve about 6% of our entire deficit problem going forward for the next decade!
The rest has to come mostly from savings in entitlements like Social Security and Medicare, or your favorite domestic program will get gutted. (read Don Taylor’s book: ‘Balancing the Budget is a Progressive Priority‘ if you want to see what not balancing the budget looks like from the other end of the telescope)
Now if President Obama wants to return to the roughly 19.5% of GDP spending levels we had under Bill Clinton and the GOP Congress, instead of the 24% of GDP spending levels he has presided over for the past four years, well, then, he would be talking some commonsense finally. I bet Speaker John Boehner would come running to the White House from Capitol Hill in his bare feet to sign a deal under those conditions.
Let’s look at some other analogies from human behavior to see if doing more of one counterproductive thing solves another problem we might have:
1. I should eat more Twinkies, Ho-Hos and Ding-Dongs…in order to lose weight.
2. I should light up more Camels and Pall Malls…in order to stop smoking.
3. I should drink more moonshine, hard cider and Scotch…in order to get sober.
4. I should read and study less …in order to get smarter.
5. I should sit on the couch and eat Cheetos by the bagful….and then I will get healthier.
6. I should bathe less….in order to make more friends.
7. I should eat more candy, drink more sodas and not brush or floss….and I will not get cavities.
8. I should work less….and then I will make more money.
9. I should buy an Escalade or Denali…because I want to make America energy-independent.
10. I want to get rid of global warming; therefore, I should take a plane to DC to lobby for it.
You get the point. The answer to our spending problems, class, is what? Precisely. Stop spending more money than you take in each year in tax revenues. It really is as simple as fifth-grade math; perhaps as simple as second-grade addition and subtraction, but mostly subtraction.
Fiscal Tourette’s Syndrome somehow taps into the deepest recesses of the human condition and spews out what we are really like as fallen human creatures. We want something…for nuttin’! We don’t say it quite that way. But we all know it to be true. Normal rules of decorum prevent us from doing so in polite company, just like anyone would feel around a Tourette’s patient.
However, just as Tourette’s Syndrome makes a person spit out epithets reflexively, Fiscal Tourette’s apparently makes many of our duly-elected leaders spit out crazy stuff that just is not supported by commonsense, facts, history, or empirical evidence. Perhaps they don’t even know what they are saying. Perhaps they really do have a genetic condition that prevents them from understanding the gravity of their delusion.
Raising taxes has absolutely nothing to do with mediating the one main problem we have in American self-government today: We have elected people who like to over-spend way too much! At every single level of government.
Take a look at Detroit, which is just about to declare bankruptcy. Is California far behind? Here’s a story about a state taxpayer-paid psychiatrist making $822,000 in California today. If that doesn’t convince you that Governor Jerry Brown’s nickname, ‘Moonbeam’, should apply to the state of their government finances today, I don’t know what else to tell you.
Now, I wish it were true that all we had to do was wave a magic fairy wand over the heads of people like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates and LeBron James, and gazillions of dollars would pour out of their wallets into the federal coffers in Washington DC and everyone could keep consuming all the federal services they want.
Which includes, but is not limited to the following:
Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Welfare, Defense, Environmental Protection, New Road Construction, Harbors, Space Probes, Blind Albino Squirrel Research, Obamacare
You get the picture.
But we can’t. We will never tax our way out of our spending problems. Elected officials of a certain mindset will always find a way to spend more.
It is enough to make a God-fearing person swear. Even if you don’t have Tourette’s.
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