Watching D.C. is Like Watching a Bad Marriage

This whole government “shutdown” fiasco reminds me of a married couple fighting over money. One spouse insists, “You won’t let me buy what I want. You’re mean!” The other replies, “We’re spending more than we bring in. Look at the numbers. I can prove it.” The difference is that the married couple must eventually confront hard facts. The government, to date, has not.

The Tax Foundation reports that ‘the federal deficit [each year] has grown so large that ‘[e]ven if the government took all of the income earned by those who have an after-tax income of $1 million or more, the amount of revenue generated would fall far short of eliminating’ the over $1 trillion deficit each year. In 2010, for example, the after-tax income of all millionaires was about $709 billion. The 2012 fiscal operating deficit was $1.32 trillion.

Deficits and debt, of course, continue to increase each year. With Obamacare on the books, and millions more eligible for Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment and food stamps each year, the debt and deficit will soon skyrocket.

Most people say they’re sick of ‘ideology’ and politics. They simply want the government officials to ‘come together and fix the problem.’

OK, then. But doesn’t coming together and ‘fixing the problem’ imply a rational assessment of all the relevant facts?

Look at the most relevant fact. The government takes in far, far less than it spends.

The conventional solution to this problem is ‘raise taxes on the rich.’ In 2008, both presidential candidates blamed wealthy people for our problems; the one who blamed more loudly won. In 2012, the sitting president ran against a wealthy man, and claimed that wealthy men are the ones who created all the problems; the sitting president won.

It seems reasonable to conclude that most people believe, or at least on some level feel, that wealthy people are the source of our problems.

If you accept this premise, then how—by the numbers alone—are you to uphold it? Even if we tax every millionaire and billionaire in the country at a rate of 100 percent, we still won’t come close to controlling the debt and deficit.

Does anyone propose taxing wealthy people at 100 percent rates? This would literally turn them into slaves. They’d stop working, or rush to somehow shelter their money in Swiss bank accounts. It’s plainly absurd.

Think about it. If you presently support high taxes on the wealthy, will you still support those high taxes once you make a lot of money, if you do? If not, then how do you justify the contradiction and double standard? Be honest. Higher tax rates on the wealthy are always advanced in the name of rational intelligence and high morality. But the people who advocate these policies would almost never apply them, not to themselves.

There’s no way to escape ideology, because ideology refers to ideas and assumptions. Ideas and assumptions are implicit in every emotion we have, every action we take, and every position—in politics, or elsewhere—that we endorse or decry.

But, if for the sake of argument, we put ideology aside, the numbers still do not add up.

Most are in agreement that the current government ‘shutdown’ mess is a fiasco. But the question is: Why?

To me, the fiasco is illustrated by what we’re not discussing. Since it’s plain that no matter how high taxes go for the rich, the debt and deficit will still be with us more than ever before, then what’s the rational solution?

All I hear from the ruling party—Obama and his Democrats—is antipathy towards the Republicans, primarily the Tea Party Republicans who attempt to set limits on them. These Democratic rulers don’t like limits. But I still don’t see any proposed solutions, other than higher taxes (with still more spending).

Let’s say I agreed with Obama that we should tax the rich as much as we can—perhaps even 100 percent. The debt and deficit will still be there.

Are we to conclude from this that Obama and the Democrats do not see the federal debt and deficit as major problems?

Can a nation continue to accumulate more and more debt, to an infinite degree? Can a federal reserve bank be counted on to intelligently manipulate a private economy without ever causing a depression or major economic dislocation? The Federal Reserve certainly didn’t prevent the stock market crash of 1929, and the financial collapse of 2007-08. Some would even argue that it caused them. Yet we count on the Federal Reserve’s monetary policies to carry the day, whether we know it or not, every time we spend a dollar or plan our own personal budgets.

We ought to hold our rulers accountable for their policies. They tell us that they should be allowed to tax as much as they want, in which case (they imply) the debt and deficit will come under control. If that’s the case, they should be required to prove it.

Of course, that won’t happen. They cannot prove it, and they know it. This is why their only answer is to attack those who disagree, and morally condemn them in the process.

In the meantime, the real and growing problems remain unresolved. Bad marriages eventually dissolve. Will a dysfunctional United States eventually do the same?


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