Archive » April 7, 2011
IT'S JUST MY OPINION
By Harris Sherline, Contributing Writer
Now you see it, now you don’t. The federal government is operating with the largest budget deficit in history, but who’s counting?
Paraphrasing Senator Everett Dirksen’s (1896-1969), R-IL, famous comment, A trillion here, a trillion there – pretty soon, you’re talking real money, gives testimony to the adage, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
The only things that seem to have changed over the 45 plus years since the senator is reputed to have made his comment are the numbers and the size of government.
Appointing special panels and/or commissions to investigate and recommend various courses of action is not new. It is a long-established method of avoiding responsibility for making decisions in politically charged situations, which have been used by politicians of every stripe, left, right and middle.
A prime example is the Base Realignment and Closure process that was adopted by Congress to close military installations in the years from 1989 to 1995, which ultimately closed 350 bases. The problem was that many of the bases were an important source of jobs and income in various Congressional districts, and there were so many objections that Congress transferred the authority to a committee, which selected the bases that should be closed without having to get approval of any specific closures. Think Vandenberg Air Force Base.
In short, Congress punted and took themselves out of the loop of responsibility.
Fast forward to the current Congress, which established the “Deficit Reduction Commission” to avoid accountability for making the tough decisions themselves. That is, to sidestep responsibility for recommending the fixes needed to reduce the federal budget deficit and avoid the political firestorm that has been accompanying the process.
Economist Thomas Sowell commented: “Another deficit reduction commission has now made its recommendations. My own recommendation for dealing with deficits would include stopping the appointment of deficit reduction commissions. It is not the amount of money that these commissions cost that is the issue. It is the escape hatch that they provide for big-spending politicians.”
A Rasmussen Reports survey found that 58% of adults believe voters should be allowed to vote on the commission’s recommendations (rather than Congress).
The proposals considered by the Deficit Commission include $751 billion in tax increases (over 10 years), including a phased 15-cent increase in the gas tax. However, Rasmussen also found that “only 25% of Americans are willing to pay higher taxes to reduce the deficit and that 59% are not willing to pay more in taxes for that purpose. Only 15% were undecided.
Furthermore, “Americans strongly prefer spending cuts to tax increases, but a plurality (40%) thinks the Commission is more likely to propose tax hikes than cuts in spending to reduce the budget deficit.”
Thomas Sowell also noted: “People behave differently when tax rates are high as compared to when they are low. With low tax rates, they take their money out of tax shelters and put it to work in the economy, benefiting themselves, the economy and government, which collects more money in taxes because incomes rise.”
If the House Republican majority is serious about reducing the deficit, they can start by cutting taxes, which experience shows increases revenue. And they must resist the temptation to create any new taxes, such as the VAT (Value Added Tax) or a national sales tax. However, at the same time, they must also reduce spending.
The Deficit Commission was charged with recommending ways of reducing the Obama administration’s disastrous deficits from 8.9% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product to 3% by 2015. However, as usual, the question is whether and/or to what extent Congress will adopt their recommendations.
Alan Simpson, co-chairman of the Commission, predicted a “bloodbath” on Capitol Hill this year, when Congress is forced to deal with raising the nation’s debt ceiling, noting that “America cannot be great if we go broke.”
A Nov. 18, 2010, Patriot Post Essay noted: “If Republicans are serious about budget cutting…Start by identifying expenditures and taxes which are not expressly authorized by our Constitution, and schedule them for termination.” The commentary also quoted James Madison, who said, “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution, which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.”
© 2011 Harris R. Sherline, All Rights Reserved Read more of Harris Sherline’s commentaries on his blog at opinionfest.com