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Digging a Deeper Hole

By       Message Ben Petit     Permalink
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"In Washington today, irresponsible leaders are putting our nation's future in jeopardy by borrowing trillions of dollars more than it can collect in taxes to pay for unnecessary government and in the process making changes to our taxation system that distort economic growth, kill jobs, and make our fiscal outlook even bleaker."

You would never know that these were the words of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, but alas, this is the man who, like his Republican opponents, is proposing as much as much as 1.3 trillion dollars in new tax breaks.

In an analysis published recently by the New York Times, the leading candidates were found to have tax policies that contributed enormously to the deficit, ranging from Gingrich's whopping 1.3 trillion to Romney's 600 billion. The sole exception, of course, is Congressman Paul, whose policies are consistent with his belief that only a fifth of government spending is constitutional.

This illustrates the common illusion that tax cuts are not a form of spending. While direct government output is perceived as "spending my money", cutting off revenue is considered "letting me keep it". A jobs bill worth a quarter-trillion dollars might be unthinkable, but to the party of fiscal conservatism, there's nothing wrong with cutting our resources by a trillion dollars.

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Unsurprisingly, the proposals blatantly favor top-bracket earners. The argument, of course, is that reducing the tax burden on "job creators" will spur economic development, but haven't we seen enough to conclude that trickle-down economics don't work? The slow recovery is due to a lack of consumer demand, not a shortage of investment capital. Not to mention, the gap between the rich and the poor is already widening.

While the candidates' plans make some provision for poor and middle class Americans, the same study cited from the New York Times showed that under Governor Mitt Romney's plan, those earning ten thousand or less per year could expect to see a %0.3 decrease compared with about %14.5 for millionaires. Meanwhile, the cuts would go to about an eighth of bottom-bracket earners while not a single millionaire would miss out.

This makes an interesting statement about Governor Romney, who promises to eliminate any "non-essential" expenditure. Life-saving medical research is non-essential. Environmental protection is non-essential. Additional investments in health care are non-essential. An extra 286,880 dollars in a millionaire's pocket, evidently, is essential.

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I wouldn't push the argument that revenue increases are the sole solution to our deficit problems. It's a sad fact that we can't get back in the black without touching certain areas, but cutting our revenue is completely counterproductive. How can we eliminate earmarks (which cost comparatively little but actually yield some benefit) but still splurge on extravagant tax breaks? How can the Republicans risk a government shutdown with a political stunt to cut spending and still push trillion-dollar revenue cuts? How can we put crucial expenditures so readily on the chopping block and choke the resources we need to sustain the ones that don't get cut?

It just goes to show that deficits are only taken seriously when they're financing the wrong things. God forbid we should waste money on NPR, but when it comes to throwing out tax breaks, there's plenty to go around. Planned Parenthood is money down the drain, but some extra cash for "job creators" is the economic juice that keeps the market running.

Should there be a Romney or Gingrich inauguration next year, it will be a fine day for the nation's "%1". For the generation that's about to inherit a massive financial burden, however, it will be anything but.

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The author is a political activist and outspoken advocate for open and fair elections, and has previously been published in USA Today. He has spent considerable time working on electoral campaigns in various states and pushing for environmental (more...)

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