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Dear Uncle Sam: Please Raise Taxes!

By       Message Robert Sargent     Permalink
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“Our nation’s leaders are responsible to confront problems, not pass them onto others...”

...“And to lead this nation to a responsibility era, the president himself must be responsible.”

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– George Bush (2000 Convention address)

I’m tempted to stop right there. Really, what more needs to be said? The wisdom is self evident, as is the complete failure of President Bush to live up to his own mission statement.

There is, alas, an element of the debates surrounding the presidential campaigns that is disturbingly absent: Beyond “what” should be done to begin the long, daunting, and in many respects impossible task of repairing the damage of the Bush presidency, is the question of “how?” Specifically, how are we going to pay for it? How are we going to cover the costs for the war we can neither win nor extract ourselves from? How are we going to pay for the care required by our physically and/or mentally injured returning veterans? How are we going to fund health care? How are we going to cover Social Security checks for baby boomers? How are we going to pay for the necessary steps to protect our planet from global warming and other environmental catastrophes? Where is the money going to come from to rebuild our dilapidated infrastructure and to reconstruct after inevitable future storms and earthquakes?

We are this year, as has been the case for many years now, hundreds of billions of U.S. dollars short of paying for the services we receive from our Federal Government, even as our veteran services, infrastructure, homeland security, FDA, health care, and many other vital and necessary programs and services are severely and dangerously underfunded. The Congressional Budget Office’s official and bogus deficit estimate for the fiscal year ending 9/30/2007, which excludes the stuff that they simply don’t want to count, stands at $158 Billion. To the contrary, the U.S. Treasury’s own numbers show that the actual public debt increased by $473 billion between 09/30/2006 and 8/23/2007. So, unless we experience a surplus of more than $300 billion next month, I’d guess the CBO numbers are a little optimistic (who’da thunk?).

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If we aren’t willing to pay for the services we receive from our government now, at the leading edge of baby-boomer retirement with the economy strong and unemployment low, then when will we be?

The presidential candidates (and Senatorial candidates, and Congressional candidates) all speak eloquently about their grand plans and the need to be responsible and demonstrate leadership and tackle our problems. Who is willing to propose a per annum tax increase in the neighborhood of $500,000,000,000?

I remember Paul Tsongas’ statement when he refused to rule out tax increases: “I’m not Santa Claus”, and I remember Bill Maher’s post-election retort “yes, and he’s not president, either”. I do not believe this county is prepared to elect responsible leaders. We don’t want them. The only way to be true to President Bush’s noble yet thoroughly disregarded creed: “Our nation’s leaders are responsible to confront problems, not pass them onto others”, is to pass a massive tax increase. MASSIVE.

It is easier to believe that big deficits are prudent and a balanced budget is irresponsible; that tax cuts increase government receipts; that wars pay for themselves; that there is such thing as a free lunch, and what goes around doesn’t come around. The President’s argument that a tax increase will erase future jobs is, like so many of his prognostications, dead, and perhaps deadly, wrong. The reverse is true. The enormous deficits, current $9 trillion debt and associated interest payments will, as boomers retire, increasingly become a drag on the economy and put America at risk for catastrophic economic collapse, which, by the way, is essentially the opinion that former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neil was fired for. (For a good analysis of why deficits matter, see Hale Stewart’s article “Why Clinton’s Economy Was Better”). Indeed, former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers yesterday warned we may be on the brink of recession, and last march, prior to the sub-prime debacle, Alan Greenspan pegged the chance of recession this year at 33%. This is the fruit of the President’s tax cuts and more than $3 trillion expansion of our national debt and $150 billion increase in annual debt payments – an economy so precarious there is a good chance of recession this year. Here’s one thing on which you can bet: The Bush Administration will, at the vaguest indication of economic downturn, demand tax cuts to boost the economy.

How could we possibly slip into recession while enjoying full employment, low taxes, low interest rates and low inflation with massive and supposedly stimulative deficit spending? It’s because there’s no free lunch, folks, and sooner or later we, and if not “we”, certainly our children, are going to pay a very steep price for our deadly national sins of greed, gluttony and pride.

Obviously, “The president himself must be responsible”. If, however, we are to usher in a “responsibility era”, it is first and foremost required that the electorate act responsibly, and we can start by expecting to pay for the services we receive from our government and stop saddling future generations with the burdens that are rightfully ours to bear.

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Robert Sargent is co-owner of a Washington State commercial printing company with operations in Seattle and Redmond. He has an Economics degree from the University of Washington and occasionally plays alto sax with the Husky alumni band. An amateur (more...)
 

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