Writing for the Washington Post, Marc Thiessen wonders if it isn’t time to start pricing government appropriately:
How can we expect people to care about the growth of government if it doesn’t cost them anything?
Instead of paying for the current miasma of spending, we’ve been borrowing the money from our children and grandchildren. The national debt has grown by nearly $6 trillion in the four years since Obama took office. That generational theft cannot continue. We must not keep financing big government by passing the bills on to the next generation. Ideally, we would stop the spending binge and live within our means. But if the nation is not up to that, then we should all pitch in and pay for it — all of us.
Sorry, taxing the rich won’t solve our problems — that’s nothing but fiscal snake oil the president has been selling. He is demanding $1.3 trillion in higher taxes on the wealthy over 10 years. Imagine he got it. We are adding nearly that much to the national debt every single year. Taxing the rich would not put even a minor dent in our debt. It would pay for less than three weeks of federal spending every year. The only way to pay for the current expansion of government is to raise taxes on the middle class.
So let’s do it. Let’s all of us experience the true cost of big government in the form of a bigger tax bill.
If there were to be a theme for this modern age of American politics it would be economic bubbles. We saw a housing bubble expand and then pop after the government lowered the price of mortgages to promote home ownership. We’re seeing a higher education bubble reach the point of popping after government lowered the price of student loans to promote college degrees. And now we’re seeing a government bubble after the government lowered the price of government by not asking taxpayers to pay for it.
Americans have made it clear that they want bigger, more expansive government paid for by other people. And the politicians have been doing their best to honor that demand, putting the burden for this growth in government squarely on the shoulders of younger Americans who will be tasked with paying back the debt we’re accumulating now (or just printing more money, diluting the value of our currency and making us all poorer in the process).
This has created an idea, which seems ingrained in American voters these days, that government money is somehow free money. Something that has, in turn, led to a lot of bad decision making.
Just as subprime borrowers thought it was a great idea to take out a third mortgage on their home to fund a European vacation, just as college students think it’s a great idea to take out $100,000 in student loans to get a sociology degree, our politicians seem to think it’s a great idea to spend hundreds of billions on “stimulus” projects and investments into “green energy” boondoggles.
And the taxpayers go along with it, because right now they’re not feeling any pain. They’re not being asked to pay for it. It all goes to the national debt, and if anyone’s taxes are going up, it’s just the rich people’s taxes. And that’s not most of us, right?
But bubbles are what happens when you disconnect the consumer from the price. We’re all consumers of government. We all drive on the roads. Most of us use the schools. We all benefit from the police and the fire departments and the military. Maybe it’s time we started actually paying for it all.
There may be no better way to get across the need for limited government than to bring the price of government home to every taxpayer in the country in the form of higher taxes. It would be terrible for our economy, but the long term consequences of continuing as we are now are even worse.