July 26, 1999
Reducing the tax reduction
Taxpayers need a real break from cost of government
I have often been accused of having never met a tax cut that I didn't like. I am guilty as charged.
The American public is, quite simply, over-taxed. More than half the income of the average American goes to paying the cost of government. Americans pay more for their government than they do the combined cost of food, clothing, shelter, entertainment and education.
Taxpayers need a break. Perhaps the most disgusting and philosophically disgusting idea is that tax cuts "cost" the government. This misguided notion comes from defenders of a statist mindset, who believe that all things -- ranging from the most common of items to the first fruits of our labor to our very lives -- are owned by the government.
The reality, of course, is that government does not have any money except what it takes from the taxpayer.
Unfortunately, for far too many years Members of Congress from both parties have come to view the public purse not as a sacred trust but rather a trough from which they can take all they want, whenever they want.
And so it was with great anticipation that I heard of a plan that would provide almost a billion dollars in tax cuts. This package would eliminate or significantly reduce such odious taxes as the marriage penalty and the death tax.
But as I have grown to expect in Washington, the hype fell short of the delivered package. When I did cast my vote in support of the plan -- for it does offer the possibility of lower taxes -- the excitement had worn off.
Instead of standing firm, congressional leadership bowed to statist pressure and made significant changes to the package. The income tax reduction was itself reduced. The marriage tax stays on the books for another year. The capital gains and death taxes are only slightly reduced. And the income tax reductions hinge on there being no increases in interest outlays for total US federal government debt. Given this provision, the tax cut is very unlikely.
Even under this "historic" tax-cut plan, Americans will still work more than half the year to pay the cost of government. Further, most of the tax cuts are only fully realized ten years from now. While some talk about benefits years down the fiscal road, Congress can only draft budgets for a single year; what is passed in one fiscal year can be erased in the next. And as one might imagine, the tax cuts for this fiscal year are puny.
Until we root out the notion that all things originate with government; until we banish the idea that government is somehow bearing a burden by not taking so much money from society's producers; until the time comes, we will never see truly historic tax reform.
The American public clamors for tax relief. I have never had a constituent or taxpayer ask me to vote to raise their taxes; in fact, I am hard-pressed to recall a meeting with taxpayers in which they did not, in some fashion or other, demand that Congress move expeditiously to reduce the burden.
Members of Congress, and indeed politicians in general, are nothing if not pragmatic. Because they have never truly seen the effect of taking a truly firm stand in favor of cutting taxes, they do not want to risk seeing it when an election might be at stake. What they do know is that pork-barrel projects get them campaign donations to fund their coffers, and favorable newspaper editorials to drive their public relations.
And pork costs money. And money comes from taxes. And taxes come from the sweat of the American people.
I have never met a tax cut I wouldn't support, even a small tax cut. I look forward, though, to the day when I can vote for a tax cut that is neither a rhetorical device nor a watered-down compromise. Instead, I hope one days we will witness a truly historic tax cut that ensures the American people will keep more of what they earn than what they hand over to the tax man.