Sep 102008

As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is, to use it as sparingly as possible; avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, but remembering also that timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it; avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertions in time of peace to discharge the debts, which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burthen, which we ourselves ought to bear. The execution of these maxims belongs to your representatives, but it is necessary that public opinion should cooperate. To facilitate to them the performance of their duty, it is essential that you should practically bear in mind, that towards the payment of debts there must be Revenue; that to have Revenue there must be taxes; that no taxes can be devised, which are not more or less inconvenient and unpleasant; that the intrinsic embarrassment, inseparable from the selection of the proper objects (which is always a choice of difficulties), ought to be a decisive motive for a candid construction of the conduct of the government in making it, and for a spirit of acquiescence in the measures for obtaining revenue, which the public exigencies may at any time dictate.

—George Washington, Farewell Address

The next President and Congress of the United States must raise taxes and cut spending.

The last time I checked, the national debt was about $9.6 trillion, but it’s probably higher now. The interest on this debt presently amounts to nearly 10% of the federal budget, which admittedly is less than half of we spend on defense, but still easily exceeds $200,000,000,000. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the interest outlay in 2007 could have covered the entire federal expenditure on supplemental security income, child tax credits, unemployment, food stamps, family support, child nutrition, and foster care, with almost enough left over to pay for veteran’s benefits. Of course, the magnitude of the debt (and the associated interest payments) will only increase when Medicare and Social Security payments start to exceed revenues. The federal government has run a deficit every year since 2001, and none of the people running for office now have done enough to stop it. Nor do they propose to do enough to stop it.

Instead, our candidates propose hosts of new projects, proposing no financing beyond the sunshine and rainbows that adorn their professionally-coiffed speeches. They shoo away the petty earmarks while the great consumers — Medicare, Social Security, Defense — gnaw the budget to the bone, unmolested in their gluttony. Most candidates who are willing to tax are unwilling to stop spending; most candidates who are willing to cut expenditures also want to lower taxes. Either way is insane, but many candidates want the whole pie: more spending, less taxes, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!

It has become almost obligatory, especially among those seeking office for the first time, to blame the present excesses on fat cats in the capital, but simply pointing the finger at Washington doesn’t cut it. Irresponsible big spenders do not reach office by magic; they get there because we elect them. This is not a problem of other people in other districts who have bad judgment and choose lousy representatives. This is your problem in your district, and it is a problem because we have failed to do as George Washington asked. A man who tells you that our budget problems can be solved without any pain is either a fool, or a liar who thinks that you are a fool. But when a candidate gets up and acknowledges that taxes must be raised, that favored spending must be restrained, he is hated by an electorate that ought to applaud him for his honesty.

So the politicians lie. They cut taxes and spend more. They raise taxes and outspend that. And all along we grumble and complain about “Washington insiders” and “Beltway bandits”. Well, throw the bums out! That’s in your power, isn’t it? If you’re reading this post you have access to the internet. Find out how your congressman voted during his term. Read the text of the bills he voted on. Find out what questions he asked in committee and what speeches he made on the floor. Dig up the things that interest you, no matter how obscure. The behavior of state legislators and other officials is often more difficult to track, but these records exist. You as a voter have a duty to find and evaluate them, because terribly few politicians are honest about their record or intentions. Even if they are inclined to tell the truth, they dare not speak it because we voters are all too happy to punish harsh truths and reward pleasant lies.

Paying down the national debt is a personal obligation. We owe it to our children and grandchildren, our nieces and nephews, not to leave them a country upside down on its loans. More than that, however, it is a patriotic obligation. We owe it to our parents and grandparents, our soldiers and our founders, not to let the country they worked so diligently to build and preserve crumble due to debt and dissipation.

The next President and Congress of the United States must raise taxes and cut spending. Any candidate for any national office who refuses to acknowledge this truth does not deserve your vote.

  4 Responses to “Upside down”

  1. Dang it, I don't wanna do RESEARCH on a candidate. The media should tell me who to vote for. Also, I should make up my mind early so I can forward emails full of party talking points and name calling of the other candidate because all my friends, relatives, co-workers, and casual acquaintances desperately need to be aware the other guy/girl is a Muslim/Bush clone/Lipsticked pig/beltway insider.

  2. I couldn't agree with you more, but I am very pessimistic that a candidate who says he (or she) will raise taxes will ever get into office. The Democrats will come closest to these admissions, which is why the better educated people are, the more likely they are to vote Democratic. Unfortunately, as we the well-educated (or over-educated) are frightfully aware, we live in a country of people wallowing in self-imposed ignorance.

    Even if Obama does manage to make it into office–and based on what I've seen since the Palin announcement, I'm less than confident that he can–he's got Jimmy Carter written all over him. If he's half as good a leader as he claims he'll be, he will raise taxes, and maybe (though doubtfully) cut spending. And then the hoi palloi, outraged at their tax bills, will vote his ass out of office.

    And then Sarah Palin will be president. And then I will curl up into the fetal position and cry myself to sleep every night.

  3. Right on target. But hold on; they (especially respectable intellectuals like Bill O'Reilly) will start screaming "socialist" so you better keep this under wraps…

  4. It's not socialism if George Washington says it. Actually, although it's extremely dry, I strongly recommend giving the Farewell Address a read. It's interesting to see how little of Washington's advice was heeded, and how prescient he was about the consequences.

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