Trouble and Trials Part 6: Increased Taxes or Spending Cuts; Pick Two
Recently, I’ve picked on housing as an example of economic choices we’ve made but can’t pay for. We’ve been overspending on our wants for so long that now we consider them needs.
To attack this problem, the government has two weapons: they can either cut spending or increase income (a.k.a. taxes). However, they lack the will to do so, because both options tend to get a large segment of the voting public upset.
If you are against cutting back on many of your favorite government programs (defense, education, and welfare, for example) then just be ready to pay a lot more in taxes. If you are against increased taxes (or even want them lower), then just be ready to see the budget slashed to almost every government-funded program you know.
Weighing the options of cutting spending or increasing taxes entails a lot of back and forth. You can military spending by eliminating the 7thFleet. But what if you don’t want to cede control of the Pacific to China? Raise taxes instead. No? Cut military spending by withdrawing our forces from Europe. What about worries of a resurging Russia? Fine. Eliminate fear and fund the spending. But then taxes need to be raised.
Want better salaries and benefits for teachers? Reduce the number of teachers so the money stretches further, and increase class sizes. Don’t want Johnny to get lost in a sea of students? Let’s trade: you get smaller classes and better paid teachers if parks and beaches can be shut down to save money there. What, you want recreation and education, too? Then can I raise your taxes?
Are seniors ready to put up with fewer Social Security and Medicare benefits? Are their kids willing to pay for it? Or should we leave the benefits and taxes as is, and allow the grandkids to foot the bill later?
Wait, no problem: The rich people and corporations can pay. Fine…but realize there aren’t enough rich to do it all; and the folks who work for those corporations would like to keep their jobs and benefits. I’m not saying to decline raising taxes on wealthier Americans. I think we should raise them. But that alone doesn’t come close to solving our financial problems.
And that’s the problem. We can’t have our cake and eat it, too. And this cake? It was bought on a credit card that, right now, we can’t afford to pay.
This article was published under the title "Rob Peter, Pay Paul, But Make Few Merry"
in the WichitaFalls Times Record Newson June 19, 2011.
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