A Tax Debate Would Be Wise

Apparently the New York Times would like to have a public debate about taxes. The editorial board expresses their despair that none of the presidential candidates talk about taxes. I think that they are completely right that such a debate is necessary. Beyond that it seems that there is hardly anything that we agree about on this subject. When they turn to discussing their views as opposed to the positions and rhetoric of the candidates they start by saying:

Still, going forward, competent governance, let alone achieving great things, will require more revenue, period.

I consider it to be a very safe bet that they mean that on an perpetual basis. As a proponent of fiscal responsibility I could be sold on the idea that we need more revenue for the time being (meaning the next few decades) to help us dig ourselves out of the financial pit we are in (as a result of our spending in the last few decades). But I think that part of the solution will have to include reducing the spending on some government programs this should include increased efficiency in such programs, but wisdom dictates that it also include a reduction in some programs or services.

The editorial board suggests three opportunities that we can address in the necessary tax debate. Of those three, only one really strikes me as a real opportunity rather than empty dialog:

  • To create a system that does not disproportionately favor investment income over income from work.

I think we agree that the idea that the Democrats gave lip-service to when they gained the majority of both houses of Congress – paying for new programs with reductions elsewhere or new taxes – is a nice idea. The problem is that it really makes little difference if they do that without also making sure that they are actually paying for existing services as well, rather than allowing for deficit spending where it already exists.

The bias of the New York Times is irrefutable when they make statements such as:

. . . the exorbitant cost of the flat tax would likely be paid by cutting Medicare, Social Security and other bedrock government services.

If Medicare and Social Security are “bedrock government services” then I wonder how our nation survived its first 150 years without those services. Though I may easily be accused of being willing to punish poor people for being poor by cutting these government programs, I promise that I would happily support any such program if we did not have debts in the Trillions and if Congress were not deficit spending to implement the programs. Though I believe that these programs are not necessary for government, I am not one to believe that government can never do any good with such programs. The problem I see is in allowing our federal government to use illusory tricks such as deficit spending that even state governments (let alone private individuals) are not allowed to do. The fact is that if a business operated like the government the leaders of that business would be prosecuted and jailed in a truly just society.

More difficult than tax reform itself may be the search for a candidate with the political courage to speak frankly to the American people about the nation’s budget problems and the leadership skills to solve them.

There is a candidate with the political courage to speak frankly about our budget problems – his name is Ron Paul. They might decide to argue that he lacks the leadership skills to solve the problem but nobody can credibly argue that he lacks the political courage to speak frankly about it. I think that this is a debate we should have. Perhaps the New York Times could start it by hosting a debate or forum in which they could invite Dr. Paul to participate. They could also invite David Walker, the Comptroller General of the United States, who is also anything but timid in speaking about this subject. They can invite whoever they want to defend their positions where they obviously differ from these two men, but with their influence the debate would be hard to ignore once they got the ball rolling. We might even get all the candidates talking about it like they should be.

About David

David is the father of 8 extremely organized children (4 girls / 4 boys) who is constantly seeking answers to tough questions related to parenting, education and politics while moonlighting for 40 hours each week as a technology professional. He also enjoys cooking, gardening, and sports.
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8 Responses to A Tax Debate Would Be Wise

  1. Jason Black says:

    I don’t want to play the part of a broken record, repeating comments I’ve already made – but perhaps this bears repeating:

    While Ron Paul is quite courageous in sharing his opinions, he will not be president. Nor do I think he ought to be. He’s a much better voice in favor of reform in Congress. We need more voices like his in Congress. But he has no chance of becoming president, and even if he did, he’d be an ineffective one – so his opinions matter but little since he’d struggle to get anything done.

    That said, I’d love to hear a solid debate concerning taxes and fiscal policy generally.

  2. David says:

    I’m not sure which would be better for this country – a lone congressman crying the message of reform on deaf ears or an ineffective president who can do nothing more than stand as a stumbling-block while Congress strolls down the path of fiscal destruction.

    Is it better to have someone speaking the truth about our fiscal reality from the highest profile position we have while getting very little accomplished or to have an effective leader who slowly drifts in the same dangerous course that we are currently headed?

    Basically there is no other candidate that I can fully trust on this issue until we have this debate. Admittedly there are a few that I think I could trust on this score after the public has been made aware of the cliff we are approaching.

  3. Nice post David.

    The lack of frank and open discussion regarding fiscal responsibility, tax policy and spending priorities is troublesome. Some of the blame I put upon the media who keep treating the Presidential race like it is a football game rather than an exploration of different alternatives. “There goes Obama for a five yard game.”

  4. David says:

    It would be nice if the media acted as if they were providing a public service by covering topics of importance rather than simply running a business by covering only what they think will bring in revenue.

    I think that’s why they cover the elections like they do (I’ve even seen news stories that admit they are covering the candidates like they would horses in a horse race) rather than paying a bit more attention to the issues of real importance. It’s not nearly so important who is leading in the polls as it is to have an electorate that is informed about the issues, and the positions of the various candidates.

  5. Agreed. I liken most MSM as nothing more than Sportscenter for politics. That is unfortunate, because the real weighty issues are left to behind the scenes deals being brokered by lobbyists representing powerful interests, not through citizen input and interaction. And it isn’t a single party affair, the fault lies with both.

  6. David says:

    You’re absolutely right. Anyone who would say this is the fault of one party or another is either under-informed or part of the problem.

    It’s easy to say “It’s the Democrats’ fault (because I disagree with their fiscal philosophy)” or “It’s the Republicans’ fault (because I disagree with their fiscal philosophy).”

    The fault lies in a lack of public debate over the real weighty issues and a lack of transparency when the deals are brokered.

  7. I read an interesting article in “liberal” Salon today written by Glenn Greenwald and he addressed this issue rather succinctly,

    “Presidential campaigns aren’t just about selecting the next person who will be President. They are also about debating political questions that need attention and expanding the scope of issues we consider and the ideas that are worth hearing. A campaign can be valuable by virtue of its ability to achieve those objectives.”

    This was part of Glenn’s generally favorable view of Ron Paul, that even though he may not vote for him, he atleast creeks open the doors to genuine discussion on relevant issues.

  8. David says:

    Glenn is exactly right. One of the benefits of presidential elections is that it gives the country a chance to talk about the issues we face and express our views by who we vote for. Maybe that’s part of the reason that it is so disappointing to hear so much of the media attention focused on issues like the Clinton inevitability factor and the Mitt/Mike religion factor. Those are not the national issues. We should be hearing more about Obama’s Politics of Hope and Paul’s Federalism and Reduced government – those are the kind of issues we should be debating and voting on to decide what we believe and where we should be headed as a country.

    That is especially true during the primary phase. Once we decide something of the important issues and which candidates we like in each party then the two parties and their candidates can address the issues that each party has discussed in the primaries.

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