We don’t hear many people in the federal government these days frankly proposing to raise taxes on everyone.
The reason is that raising taxes across the board is politically unpopular. So the target of tax hikes is usually the rich or those falsely labeled “the rich” — often just job-producing small-business owners.
We also don’t hear many in Washington calling for balanced budgets — and backing that up with sound proposals to achieve that goal. Cutting federal spending is painful — while irresponsible spending is popular with many individuals and special interests.
So we currently are having to borrow around 40 cents of every dollar the federal government spends. How long do you think we can go on that way without disastrous consequences? Our national debt is already $14.3 trillion! And it’s rising — at more than $1.5 trillion a year!
Well, since the president and Congress are responsible for federal finances, are they proposing reasonable solutions?
Not really, because their plans do not cut spending fast enough.
Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin has proposed reducing the debt by about $6 trillion — over the next decade. His spending-cut plan passed in the House of Representatives on April 15 by a vote of 235-193 — with not a single Democrat voting for it. But even if his “good start” becomes law, overall debt is likely to continue to rise.
Well, what do Democrats in the Senate offer as an alternative? Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad of North Dakota would cut the debt by an entirely inadequate $4 trillion — over 10 years. The debt would rise even more under his plan — and under a similar plan proposed by the president — and part of its “reduction” would come in the form of $1 trillion in tax increases. That’s no solution.
Vice President Joe Biden is hosting a meeting of House and Senate leaders today in an effort to reach an agreement on what to do. But there is not much optimism.
Our federal government continues spending too much for too many things, some of them unconstitutional. Why should Congress subsidize wealthy farmers, for instance, and passenger trains? But many in Congress and many of the rest of us are unwilling to see real spending cuts. So annual deficits and the total national debt rise, taxes remain too high, and the economy is weak.
We have not gotten into our financial problems suddenly, and we won’t alleviate them suddenly. But they will get more serious the longer that we, our president and a majority of our senators and representatives wait.
Financial pain awaits us all, but it is past time to take our medicine.