“Bipartisan” anti-deficit groups are proposing massive cuts in government spending. Sounds good, right? Wrong. These proposals are like ones we have seen before. The chief error of these panels, past and present, is that they treat defense spending as equivalent to domestic spending; and they treat spending cuts as equivalent to tax increases.
The latest such report recommends cutting defense spending, and also recommends tax hikes on gasoline and payroll taxes. This is the whole problem with “bipartisan” thinking. It’s one party thinking, where the party is always for Big Government. For one thing, the two parties have always agreed on the essentials: That government should be big and get bigger. It doesn’t matter that one of the two parties (Republicans) makes a big fuss about limiting government, because in the end it has always increased the size, power and expense of government. If this time is to be any different, we have to get rid of these bipartisan (translation: unprincipled) budget recommendations. In order to do this, certain errors in thinking must be corrected:
Correction # 1: Defense spending is not morally equivalent to domestic spending. Defense spending is mandated by the U.S. Constitution. While this does not imply that any and all defense spending is warranted, the function of defense spending is Constitutional. The function of nearly all domestic spending is not. The U.S. Constitution does not mandate Social Security, Medicare, welfare, agricultural subsidies, foreign aid, or regulation of every industry imaginable. It does mandate defense. Therefore, while defense cuts should be considered, they should not be treated as morally or fiscally equivalent to domestic spending cuts. With defense spending, the onus of proof is on the person who wants to cut. With domestic spending, the onus of proof is on the person who wants to spend.
Correction # 2: Spending cuts are not morally equivalent to tax increases. Tax increases spread the wealth, or at least purport to do so. This is the function of socialism, not capitalism and freedom as provided by our Constitution. Tax increases impose new burdens on the most productive members of society in proportion to how economically productive they are. They chip away at the private sector where all economic wealth and growth is created and sustained, where jobs are produced and where everyone makes their living. This even includes government workers who would have no salary or benefits if a private sector had not created it for them in the first place. Tax increases are generally bad, and in today’s toxic Big Government environment they are always bad and always wrong.
In the coming debate over spending — if there actually is to be one — people and politicians who want any spending not mandated by the Constitution should have to defend themselves. I’m tired of people who don’t want spending as we know it to continue and expand having to defend themselves. I see no reason for any spending at all by the federal government, except on defense and federal courts provided by the Constitution. Also, people have been forced to pay for Medicare and Social Security, so government must maintain those programs for the present generation. For the next generation of retirees, government should return all responsibility for retirement and health care to the private sector, where it belongs. It’s going back there anyway, because Medicare and Social Security are not going to last beyond the current generation. They won’t likely last ten more years on our current course, because our entire financial system could collapse if we don’t limit the power and bankruptcy of government, and soon.
So let’s put the onus of proof for continued spending on those who demand it outside of Constitutional limits and boundaries. People who agree with this should not call themselves “fiscal conservatives.” That term is far too mellow and mild for what has come to pass. They should call themselves “Constitutional conservatives,” or, better yet: principled advocates for capitalism, limited government and individual rights.