Believers, true and otherwise
The man who wants to talk about budgets without talking about raising taxes—just walk away.
There’s so much on your plate these days. There are so many other things—more useful things—you could be doing. Painting the house. Teaching gerbils to write poetry. Why fritter away your valuable time on pointless conversation?
Because pointless is exactly what it is. The man who insists that “Taxes are off the table!”—that it can all be worked out with spending cuts—is a fool. Or he thinks you are.
Anybody who’s looked at the budget situation even semi-rationally knows that a government doesn’t get itself out of major debt without cutting its spending and increasing its revenues. That’s right: raising taxes. Sad, but true.
It’s like being down in the Grand Canyon, and you know that the only common-sense way to hike out of the hole you’re in is to put one foot in front of the other—left, right, left, right—until you get back to level ground. You need to use both feet if you want to make any real progress. But the true believers insist that you use just one foot.
“Don’t collect any more money!” they scream. “Just spend less! And then even less! And then even less!”
Ever tried hopping out of the Grand Canyon? Good luck with that.
Of course, we keep assuming that common sense matters. That facts matter, even when it comes to governing. But this “No new taxes, ever, for anything” business isn’t about governing. It isn’t even about politics.
It’s gone way beyond that—it’s become religion.
It’s about purity. It’s theocracy in action, and we’re all expected to kneel before the ayatollahs of Cut and Cut Some More.
Don’t do it. Walk away.
It’s your only reasonable option. Not even Ronald Reagan would have met the true believers’ standards; he raised taxes at least a half-dozen times during his presidency. If even Reagan isn’t Reagan enough for them anymore, why even bother trying to have that conversation? It will get you nowhere.
I called them “true believers.” I’m being unfair. Some of them don’t believe a word of it. Some of them are just master manipulators.
Railing about deficits gives them a convenient excuse to hack away at the sorts of bogeymen they’ve been wanting to kill off for years. Public-employee salaries, and benefits, and bargaining rights. AmeriCorps. National Public Radio. Planned Parenthood. The National Endowment for the Arts. The National Endowment for the Humanities. Eliminating every one of those programs, and dozens more just like them, would barely make a dent in the deficit.
Then again, for these particular people, the deficit isn’t really the problem. The deficit is only the cover story.
You could try to ask them—if you were still silly enough to attempt the conversation—exactly when this great concern about deficits first took hold. Was it a tenth of a second after extending hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts for the wealthy, or was it sooner than that? It certainly wasn’t when we went to war on our credit card, in Afghanistan, in Iraq. We went to war while we lowered taxes. The deficit exploded. Did these people offer a peep of protest? Don’t be silly.
“That’s different,” they’d say, if you tried to ask them. “That’s totally different.”
Walk away. You’ll do better with the gerbils.
Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.