Many Republicans now reject the debt ceiling-raising plan concocted recently by their House leaders. The Republican leadership senses this. There are two struggles going on in American regarding our federal spending habits. One is between Republicans and Democrats and the other is between Republicans who can’t quite wean themselves from the infinite credit card vision of government and the forces embodied by the Tea Party (not a party, of course but an unorganized grass-root movement). I belong to the latter, I want to clarify our already clear position.
I don’t want to rein in federal spending, I want to shrink it. What this means is that where the federal government spent $10 last year, I want it to spend $9.5 next year and $9, the year after. That’s in real dollars. I want a set up that insures that this will happen with a high degree of certainty. I don’t know how to achieve this high level of certainty. Somebody in Congress, does, I am sure. That’s why they get the big bucks. House Majority Leader Boehner’s proposal of around July 25th 2011 does not do this.
The kind to shrinkage I describe above is not much to ask for. I do it all the time. Most American households have done it. It’s just a matter of willpower. Now, when we are back to, say, 1995 levels of federal spending I may be ready to talk again about raising spending.
What underlies the difference between the House Majority Leader and many traditional Republican Reps on the one hand, and me on the other, what explains my obduracy is this: They think that spending too much is only a bad habit economically. I think the same but it’s the smaller part of the issue. I am also convinced that the federal government is too large relative to American civil society. If you showed me a level of federal spending that I thought was economically sustainable, if I agreed, I might still want to reduce federal spending. That’s because I want to shrink the federal government, not simply improve its functioning. How more clear can we get?
Incidentally, there has been a lot of dispirited comment on the Left about the irrationality of Teas Party types’, many of them far from rich, refusal to consider tax increases on the very rich. It’s true that there are two ways to reduce the federal debt, one of which is to obtain more federal revenue. Personally, I am not against raising all taxes. I am just against increasing the burden on those who are most likely to create jobs. Instead, I propose we create a modest tax burden on the 46%+ of Americans who now pay no federal income tax at all. The current situation is politically unhealthy. It creates a caste that will never contribute anything to the federal government throughout its lifetime. It creates the impression that government is free, that it costs nothing. This has got to be unhealthy. Incidentally, and surprisingly, that’s where the money is, not with the few rich but with the many that earn modest incomes.