Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Mark Steyn: Americans must choose between low taxes and big government

I noticed that John Hawkins at Right Wing News had come up with his list of the top conservative commentators, and guess who is at the top of the list? Canadian writer Mark Steyn.

Here’s Mark Steyn writing in Investors Business Daily.

Excerpt:

According to the most recent (2009) OECD statistics: Government expenditures per person in France, $18,866.00; in the U.S., $19,266.00. That’s adjusted for purchasing-power parity, and yes, no comparison is perfect, but did you ever think the difference between America and the cheese-eating surrender monkeys would come down to quibbling over the fine print?

In that sense, the federal debt might be better understood as an American Self-Delusion Index, measuring the ever-widening gap between the national mythology (a republic of limited government and self-reliant citizens) and the reality (a 21st century cradle-to-grave nanny state in which Democrats boast,  “Government is the only thing we do together”).

Generally speaking, functioning societies make good-faith efforts to raise what they spend, subject to fluctuations in economic fortune: Government spending in Australia is 33.1% of GDP, and tax revenues are 27.1%. Likewise, government spending in Norway is 46.4% and revenues are 41% — a shortfall, but in the ballpark. Government spending in the U.S. is 42.2%, but revenues are 24% — the widest spending/taxing gulf in any major economy.

So the agonizing over our annual trillion-plus deficits overlooks the obvious solution: Given that we’re spending like Norwegians, why don’t we just pay Norwegian tax rates? No danger of that. If Jews earn like Episcopalians but vote like Puerto Ricans, Americans are taxed like Puerto Ricans but vote like Scandinavians.

We already have a more severely redistributive taxation system than Europe in which the wealthiest 20% of Americans pay 70% of income tax while the poorest 20% shoulder just three-fifths of 1%. By comparison, the Norwegian tax burden is relatively equitably distributed.

Yet Obama now wishes “the rich” to pay their “fair share” — presumably 80% or 90%. After all, as Warren Buffett pointed out in the New York Times last week, the Forbes 400 richest Americans have a combined wealth of $1.7 trillion. That sounds a lot, and once upon a time it was. But today, if you confiscated every penny the Forbes 400 have, it would be enough to cover just over one year’s federal deficit. And after that you’re back to square one.

It’s not that “the rich” aren’t paying their “fair share,” it’s that America isn’t. A majority of the electorate has voted itself a size of government it’s not willing to pay for.

[...]So given that the ruling party will not permit spending cuts, what should Republicans do? If I were John Boehner, I’d say: “Clearly there’s no mandate for small government in the election results. So, if you milquetoast pantywaist sad-sack excuses for the sorriest bunch of so-called Americans who ever lived want to vote for Swede-sized statism, it’s time to pony up.”

And this view is shared by many conservative commentators.

Marc Thiessen wants the Republicans to let the Bush tax cuts expire for everyone:

During the campaign, President Obama repeatedly told us how he wants to “go back to the income tax rates we were paying under Bill Clinton — back when our economy created nearly 23 million new jobs, the biggest budget surplus in history, and plenty of millionaires to boot.” Well if the Clinton tax rates were so great, let’s go back to all of the Clinton rates and relive the booming ’90s.

At least going back to the Clinton rates would put more people on the tax rolls, and give more Americans a stake in constraining government spending. It would also force all Americans — including the middle class — to pay for growing government services, instead of borrowing the money from China and passing the costs on to the next generation.

Americans had a choice this November, and they voted for bigger government. Rather shielding voters from the consequences of their decisions, let them pay for it.

And now he’s being backed up by Charles Krauthammer:

Why are the Republicans playing along? Because it is assumed that Obama has the upper hand. Unless Republicans acquiesce and get the best deal they can right now, tax rates will rise across the board on Jan. 1, and the GOP will be left without any bargaining chips.

But what about Obama? If we all cliff-dive, he gets to preside over yet another recession. It will wreck his second term. Sure, Republicans will get blamed. But Obama is never running again. He cares about his legacy. You think he wants a second term with a double-dip recession, 9 percent unemployment and a totally gridlocked Congress? Republicans have to stop playing as if they have no cards.

Obama is claiming an electoral mandate to raise taxes on the top 2 percent. Perhaps, but remember those incessant campaign ads promising a return to the economic nirvana of the Clinton years? Well, George W. Bush cut rates across the board, not just for the top 2 percent. Going back to the Clinton rates means middle-class tax hikes that yield four times the revenue that you get from just the rich.

So give Obama the full Clinton. Let him live with that. And with what also lies on the other side of the cliff: 28 million Americans newly subject to the ruinous alternative minimum tax.

Republicans must stop acting like supplicants. If Obama so loves those Clinton rates, Republicans should say: Then go over the cliff and have them all.

That’s my view as well. Americans voted for big government, and now we must pay for it. Maybe next time, we will put the remote control down and pay attention to the issues.

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One Response

  1. As usual, Mark Steyn is must-read material. (I would put him at number one, too.)

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