A frequent reader has complained that there has been too much depressing political talk in this blog lately, just like everywhere else. I take the point and plead guilty. I promise to foreswear the political arena for the holidays and to dwell on more elevated and amusing topics. After today.
Okay, so I can’t help myself, but in my defense my topic today is not politics, per se. It is heaping portions of hypocrisy. The hypocrisy just happens to come courtesy of politicians. After a grueling 2015, in which Congress was in session for 132 days, for an average work week of 2.5 days, the Republican-controlled legislative branch passed a budget.
Remember when the Grand Old Party complained that Obamacare ran to an incomprehensible 2,700 pages? Remember how their mantra is “balance the budget, cut the deficit or face ruin?” Remember how they constantly call for a one-page tax law and the end of the IRS? Of course you do. So now that they are in charge of writing the budget and tax laws, is utopia here yet?
Now so much. The budget and tax bills they finished in the dead of night before leaving town for a Christmas break lasting roughly from Dec. 18 to Jan. 11 (doesn’t everyone get three weeks off at Christmas?), clocks in at 2,200 pages which comes close to Obamacare territory. It calls for spending $1.1 trillion and for $680 billion in tax cuts with no corresponding spending cuts to offset them. In other words, we are in for more deficit spending than ever.
Mario Cuomo said, “You campaign in poetry, but you govern in prose.” These days, you campaign in fantasy, then budget in reality. And the reality is, the American people don’t hate government. They hate paying for it. They hate programs they don’t benefit from and love the ones that help them out. They hate their taxes, but have no problem with taxing someone else. The late Sen. Russell Long who ran the tax writing committee for years said the people’s idea of proper tax policy was, “Don’t tax you, don’t tax me, tax the man behind the tree.” Unfortunately, he could never locate the fellow behind the tree.
Politicians want to get elected so they promise to cut taxes and slash wasteful government spending, but they want to get re-elected so they don’t actually cut much of anything because for each and every program, no matter how obscure or piddling, there is some constituent who thinks it is the greatest thing ever invented. Touch it at your peril. Thus, constituent service doth make cowards of them all.
So in this 2,200 page monstrosity, the often denounced preschool programs for the underprivileged got an increase in funding. The sneered at Michelle Obama lunch program, complete with nutrition guidelines, lives on. The hated IRS actually got an increase in funding, because if the outfit is too lean to actually collect taxes, Congress has no goodies to dispense.
On the tax side, charitable loopholes have been expanded and many reams of fine print are devoted to more crony giveaways and tax gimmicks that benefit a few and, as a result, increase the tax bite on the many. They benefit everything from office furniture to race horses.
Will this sort of nonsense eventually bankrupt the nation and beggar our children, as campaigning politicians say? You bet. So why do they keep doing it? Because it makes the voters happy. Telling the truth wouldn’t. No politician would actually say, “To pay for the kind of government you want, you’d have to pay the kind of taxes they have in all those Europeans Social Democrat countries we’ve been denouncing for decades.”
Luckily, America has a better way. It’s the same way you’ve paid for the extravagant Christmas you are about to enjoy. Simply say, “Charge it,” and put off paying until next year. It’s just that in Washington, it’s Christmas every day and the bill is never paid. We’re eventually going to end up like the man in “The Sun Also Rises” who explains how he went bankrupt. “Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually and then suddenly.” But in the meantime, in between time, ain’t we got fun?
Have a very happy holiday season, and may all your dreams be of sugarplums, not of the debtors’ prison Scrooge was so fond of.