Democrats and Republicans agree that we have to address the nation’s long-term fiscal stability. Beyond that point, though, there’s little common ground.
So let’s try to keep this discussion grounded in political reality. Does anybody SERIOUSLY believe that a problem this large can be addressed solely through spending cuts? Raise your hands out there if you believe that …
I do see a few hands raised out there. In fact, looking over to the right, I see quite a few. Well, you’re not taking the problem seriously then. You may claim to believe that this issue threatens the nation’s future, but your actions say otherwise. Forced to choose between fiscal insolvency and tax hikes, you are choosing fiscal insolvency, and to hell with the country.
In the real political world in which votes have to be cast and deals have to be made, you cannot do it solely through spending cuts. The numbers involved are much too large. You would have to go to where the money really is, the major programs from the Pentagon budget to Social Security to Medicare, and the cuts in those programs would have to be so large and so deep as to politically unsustainable. If Republicans actually tried to implement the solution they claim to want, it would be political suicide and they know it.
Now, I’m sure there are a few Democrats in Congress who would like to pretend the opposite, that the budget can be balanced exclusively through tax hikes, particularly on the rich, with no real spending cuts. That position is just as much of a fantasy as its counterpart on the right, the no-new-taxes approach. But the good news is, the relatively few Democrats who take that position do not lead the party. President Obama, Senator Reid and Speaker Pelosi, among others, recognize that any solution will have to require both tax increases and spending cuts. When Obama’s bipartisan commission on the budget makes its report to Congress, it is expected to include both approaches.
But the problem is, Obama and the Democrats have no partners on the Republican side. The ongoing purge of any Republican who might think or say something reasonable on the issues of taxes has so terrified the Washington GOP that it has ensured that no negotiation, and no solution, will be possible.
Take, for example, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah. Next year he’s scheduled to become ranking minority member of the Senate Finance Committee, which means he will be committee chairman if the Republicans get control of the Senate.
Hatch has watched Republicans back home oust his longtime conservative colleague, Bob Bennett, because Bennett only toed the conservative line 99 times out of 100. He’s scared about his own future, eager to placate the mob back home.
According to The Hill, conservative pressure groups are pushing Hatch to promise that when the budget commission reports, he will rule out any consideration of tax hikes whatsoever.
“We’d like to get a commitment from all Republicans on the Finance panel to oppose new taxes,” said Andrew Roth, vice president for government affairs at the Club for Growth. “It would be political suicide for Orrin Hatch to not do so.”
Hatch says he will not make any commitment to block proposals from Obama’s deficit commission before he has a chance to review specific policy changes.
But Hatch says the Club for Growth can rest assured.
“I like the Club for Growth,” he said. “I don’t make commitments in advance until I see all the facts. I think they can pretty well rely that I don’t believe in increasing taxes at this time. I think we should reduce taxes.”
He thinks we should reduce taxes.
I have my differences with Hatch, but I’ve never thought him to be a stupid man. He knows better than that; he knows that would be disastrous for this country. But he’s doing what he thinks is necessary to save his political career. Some patriot, huh?
Conservatives love to point to the example of Greece, warning that the United States could end up in that position unless we change our ways. They conveniently forget that Greece’s problems have two major components. Yes, their social programs became too generous and their public bureaucracies too fat and lazy. But the Greeks also refused to tax themselves at a reasonable level, pretending they could get all these benefits for free. With collapse staring them in the face, they are being forced to slash government spending AND get serious about improving the revenue side of the ledger.
Anybody who complains about the debt but goes onto to oppose any tax increase — or to advocate further tax cuts — is a hypocrite more devoted to a precious political theory than to the country they claim to love.