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Monday, March 07, 2005

The Republican Party Grows Up

The Washington Post has some bright news in it today. Apparently the Republican Party is actually worrying about the deficit now. They even quote Senator George Voinovich of Ohio as saying that the President needs to start cutting spending, raise taxes, or provide political cover for those that will have to do so. This is despite the fact that the President continues to irresponsibly call for making the tax cuts of his first term permanent.
President Bush will have a hard time gaining credibility on deficits. After all, he first said his tax cuts wouldn’t create deficits. After it was apparent that he was either straight-out lying or didn’t know what he was talking about, he said the deficits would be small and short term. It is now apparent that the same options were true for that statement as for the “no deficit” statement.
To hold the cost of the tax cuts down to a mere $1.7 trillion (one trillion is one million million) the tax cuts are set to expire in 2010. Extending them an additional five years would cost at least another trillion dollars. This rosy picture is gained from using the White House’s own projections, which leave out such things as the cost of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some projections have the real cost as being as high as five trillion dollars.
In addition to this is an unfunded liability in Social Security of another $1.5 trillion and pending Medicare liabilities of up to $28 trillion. Perhaps when you push a prescription drug plan that alone is responsible for a future deficit of upwards of $7 trillion, another trillion or so is small potatoes. The truth of the matter, however, is that President Bush has recklessly piled up spending while giving generous tax breaks to his wealthy friends. His budget priorities have not only saddled us with an ongoing deficit, but with the reality of continued deficits as far as can be reasonably projected. His plan to cut the deficit in half only works if you leave out about half of the spending.
It seems both infantile and reckless to look at a budget that is deeply in the red and say, “What we need is less money to start with.” There isn’t a working American alive that would attempt to balance his or her personal budget by taking a lower paying job. It is the height of stupidity to believe that we can be better off by making ourselves worse off. Apparently even Republicans are starting to realize this.
Yes, Social Security needs more money to make sure it remains solvent. Medicare needs it even more – especially the President’s cheapskate drug prescription plan that hogties any attempt to get the best deal for drugs. National defense, from the operations in Afghanistan and Iraq to putting nuclear material detectors in all of our shipping ports, needs to be paid for. But we cannot continue to increase our federal debt by more than two billion dollars a day. Every American breathing today already owes twenty-six thousand dollars in federal debt. We cannot continue this way.
The time has come for us to grow up. We cannot continue to demand everything and give nothing in return. This is especially true for those of us who have the most. It simply isn’t fair to ask a family who scrapes by on two minimum wage jobs to foot additional taxes while millionaires reap heavy tax cuts on income, dividend, and estates.
The Bible teaches that we are to be good stewards. There is no definition of “good steward” that includes living high while our children foot the bill. At the same time, the Bible teaches to be generous to orphans, widows, and the poor. There is no definition of “generous” that includes saddling them with higher taxes. There is no definition of a “Christian people” that allows us to disregard our responsibility to this magnitude.
It is this last point that is the most telling. President Bush talks a great deal about instilling a sense of responsibility in people. He tells us that his privatized Social Security will create a sense of ownership that will benefit the country. Yet this is a case where his mouth must not know what his hands are doing – talking responsibility while enacting the most irresponsible tax cuts in the history of civilization. It is the equivalent of letting Charles Manson lecture us on the sanctity of human life.

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