Do We Have the Backbone for Tough Love?
The GOP-controlled House has issued their Spending Reduction Act of 2011, reducing federal spending by $2.5 trillion dollars over the next ten years. Rand Paul has proposed $500 billion in federal budget cuts just for 2011 alone, targeting numerous federal programs (including the food stamps program) in an effort to rein in the national debt. That there is plenty of pork that can be trimmed is not in question.
The question is, do the American people have the will to not only enforce these slashes in federal programs, but to readjust their cherished beliefs in the sacred cows of government assistance (in one form or another) that has been part and parcel of our country for decades? Are we willing to do the hard work and make the sacrifice so that we can get our fiscal house in order?
The authors of the Spending Reduction Act of 2011 were a caucus of 175 conservative House Republicans (of which over 70 were part of the 87 new freshmen who came to Congress on the wave of the Tea Party momentum), who have recognized that just “freezing” spending is not going to get our national debt under control. After President Obama’s State of the Union speech Tuesday evening, the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, Representative Jim Jordan, said that the president still didn’t understand the extent of the seriousness of the nation’s economic and financial problems.
Analysis of the president’s speech shows that he spoke about the areas he wanted to increase spending far more than the areas that needed budget cuts. Jordan remarked: “Again, I don’t think he understands how serious the situation is. I don’t think he understands what took place on November 2 …. if we don’t start dealing with [the deficit] now, the window of opportunity to put the country back on the right path is closing rapidly.”
While the Republican House is immediately looking at reverting to 2008 levels of discretionary spending, according to Jordan, that’s just the first step. They intend to look at entitlement programs and the Pentagon’s budget as well. No area is sacrosanct.
One of the areas where the Republicans and Democrats disagree is tax cuts. Republicans want to make the Bush-era tax cuts permanent, while Democrats insist that move will increase the deficit. (Of course, the Democrats’ money-saving strategies have been such stellar successes since 2008!) Jordan says it comes down to an ideological difference.
“The left thinks all money belongs to them, except what they let people keep,” he explains. “We happen to think no, that money and wealth and resources belong to families and individual taxpayers. It’s their money, so it doesn’t add to the deficit if we let them keep it.”
While the GOP is to be applauded for this first step, there’s a bit of the pot calling the kettle black in Jordan’s last remark. “…if we let them keep it.” America was founded on the principle that the government’s only rights were enumerated in the Constitution. Up until 1913, and the ratification of the 16th amendment, the government didn’t have the right to tax as it does today.
Would it interest you to know that the Socialist Labor Party was the first to petition for a graduated income tax in 1887? And since 1913, when the government secured for itself an endless supply of tax dollars, it has ballooned the debt to 211 times greater than it was in 1913, as measured in 2010 dollars.
What is also astounding is the exemption from tax ratio in 1913 compared to today. If you were a single filer in 1913, your first $3,000 was tax exempt. In today’s dollars, that would equate to the first $66,100 of income being exempt from taxes. If you were married, your personal exemption in 1913 was $4,000 dollars, or equal to $88,100 today.
And in 1913, the top marginal rate was 8%.
That’s not to say we should revert back to 1913 figures. A graduated tax is socialist and unfair. It takes from one group of people and gives it to another. We need a fair tax, where everyone pays something into the system and as such, has a vested interest in keeping that system as small and fiscally sound as possible.
We’re going to have to hold our congressmen’s and senators’ feet to the fire and make them accept cuts across the board in their pay and benefits. We’re going to have to tell every group in America that feeds at the government trough (whether through individual entitlement programs or corporate welfare) that the free lunch is over with. We’re going to have to tell universities and special groups that they’ll have to figure out a way to fund their own research into the spotted salamander or paper wasps or whatever imaginative causes they come up with because the taxpayer isn’t doling it out anymore. We’re going to have to tell all those countries that hate us that they’ll have to get their financial aid from somewhere else.
And maybe we need to tell the United Nations (the organization that collects 25% of its operating capital from the United States taxpayers) that it needs to find real estate elsewhere – Egypt perhaps.
The process is not going to be without pain or hardship. Everyone is going to suffer. But the fact is that the American taxpayer now works between three to four months (depending on the state in which you live) to pay all his federal, state, and local tax obligations. We cannot afford to sustain that level of government spending.
The American taxpayer is broke and jobless.
I hope that we find that indomitable American spirit one more time to get us through this storm. We are fast approaching the tipping point where there can be no return to fiscal sanity. I hope Rep. Jordan is correct in his assessment that Americans are willing and able to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and make the hard decisions. And I hope that they will continue electing men and women of character and fiscal restraint to not just our federal legislature, but to state and local legislatures all around the country.
We have the ability and we have the means to make this happen.
We just need the backbone to go with it.