Thursday, March 26, 2009

Taxation With Representation--An Idea that Has Outlived Its Usefulness

Oh, the mean-spiritedness of partisan politics. Barack Obama, our brave young hope 'n change president, proposes his brave new hope 'n change budget, and people start fussing. Cut this, trim that, can't have this...can't the Republicans give this guy a break?

Except it's not the Republicans who are complaining:
It's not exactly the can-do, uplifting message that President Barack Obama or congressional Democrats want to deliver to the voting public. But in the face of soaring deficit projections and growing Republican and moderate Democratic opposition to the Administration's $3.6 trillion budget plan, it may be the best they can do. And so, when the President journeyed to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to rally his party's support for his agenda, he sought to make a counterargument to the rising chorus that wants him to scale back his ambitious plans to reform health care, energy and education even as he tries to save the economy and cut the deficit.

"The real question is, Are we going to have a huge deficit with investment or a huge deficit without investment?" said Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, emerging from the meeting. "Those are my words, not [Obama's], but I'm kind of summarizing what the argument is here. If you eliminated his investments, you'd find the deficit would still be 80% or 90% of what it would be otherwise with his investment." In other words, since Washington is going to rack up massive deficits, it may as well go all in and get some long-term bang for its buck. [...]

Still, even small differences can cause major rifts in families, and the competing budgets suggest the challenges Obama's agenda faces. Both the House and Senate, after all, removed Obama's $250 billion–$750 billion placeholder request for more bank bailout funds. And they both slashed the Administration's proposed 10% increase in nondefense discretionary spending (for education, environment and health initiatives, among other things), to 7% in the Senate and 7%–9% in the House. The Senate stripped the President's signature middle-class tax cuts, known as "Making Work to Pay," of $400 for individuals and $800 for families. The Senate plan, crafted by Budget Committee chairman Kent Conrad of North Dakota, also notably does not include any targeted funding to bankroll health-care reform, as Obama's does with $634 billion over 10 years. "When you lose $2.3 trillion, you have to cut things," said Conrad, whose plan includes $160 billion less in discretionary spending over five years than the President's, with a target deficit of $508 billion in 2014.

Do you ever read things like this and just shake your head about that whole "taxation without representation" thing? It's not like taxation with alleged representation is working out all that well for us now.

We're in a time of great economic concern. Families are cutting back, tightening budgets, learning thrift, saving more, spending less. But one of the first things the Democrat-controlled Congress slashes from the president's budget is the tiny pittance in the way of tax cuts, a mere $800 (it should be many times that much) which however small would be a great boon for working families; it would really help people who are struggling financially to make a few payments or pay down the credit card.

But no--we can afford to spend 39 billion dollars in energy programs, give NASA $20 billion, increase the budget of the Environmental Protection agency by 34%--but we can't afford to let people keep $800 of their own money; that would be frivolous and wasteful.

Of course, one can't really blame the Democrats in Congress for opposing tax breaks for the common people; for some of them, it's the closest thing to a religion they have. And given that Michelle Obama thought a $600 stimulus check would barely cover a decent pair of earrings, maybe the Democrats agree with her, and figure there's no need to send people money that they're just going to go splash around at Zale's or Best Buy; the Democrats will spend it ever so much more carefully, studying frog habitations or designing more cool brochures for the Department That Makes Useless Information Available to the Clueless for Free.

But as maddening as that is, it's not as bad as this, from the same Time article above:

The House bill includes a controversial provision for so-called reconciliation — which would leave the door open to piggyback massive programs on the budget like universal health care in case they fail to make it through the regular legislative process. House Democrats and the Administration support such a move specifically for health care — though, theoretically, the provision would allow for anything, including energy, to be pushed through the Senate with just a simple majority rather than a filibuster-proof 60 votes. Several moderate Democratic Senators, including Ben Nelson of Nebraska, have said that inclusion of reconciliation instructions in the final bill would be a deal breaker for them. "Reconciliation is not where we'd like to start, but we are not willing to take it off the table," Orszag said.

Things like that make me wonder why we even have a Congress any more. They cost us a lot of money, and they don't seem to do much when the other two branches threaten to take over their power. We have become quite accustomed to having the judicial branch make laws for us, and now it seems that the executive branch wants the authority to spend money without going through the "regular legislative process." If Congress isn't even going to slow down the rate of free-fall spending, but is going to let the White House insert back-door spending provisions into regular budgets that will take Congress' authority to regulate such monies away, then why are we feeding them, paying them really nice salaries, paying for their transportation to and from nice beaches on "fact-finding" missions, paying for their health care, and so on? They've been amusing pets, but perhaps now, in these tough economic times, we could find them a decent home elsewhere; they're getting expensive at the same time they've apparently decided they no longer need to earn their keep.

And once we've put Congress out to pasture, we can start reigning in the White House and the judiciary, reminding them that they're not our overlords, but that they serve at our sufferance, and are playing about with our money and our freedom. Maybe when that lesson has sunk in we can add back in the third branch of government on a trial basis, but they'd have to promise to behave, and quit spending billions and billions of dollars we don't have on things we don't want, don't need, and shouldn't be the federal government's job in the first place.

1 comment:

LarryD said...

Great post, as usual. I fear there will be a tax revolt in this nation before long - the germination of which can be found in the Tea Party movement. It may be too late, unfortunately.

The disconnect between the reality of the constituency and the fantasy of the government is staggering. And ever widening, I'm afraid.