Be­ly­ing “con­ven­tional wis­dom”

The Catoosa County News - - COMMENTARY - Ge­orge B. Reed Jr.

A na­tion founded on a tax re­volt, Amer­i­cans sim­ply do not like to pay taxes, any taxes of any kind. We see all taxes as con­fis­ca­tory and op­pres­sive. And it seems the wealth­ier we be­come the stingier we get.

Ask any­one, par­tic­u­larly south­ern­ers, and they will tell you that the Repub­li­can Party stands for re­duced taxes, re­duced spend­ing and fis­cal con­ser­vatism. They will also tell you that the Democrats, whom they call “Tax-andSpen­docrats,” go wild with the bud­get and run up enor­mous deficits. And they be­lieve this with all their hearts. Too bad it’s not true.

Repub­li­can pres­i­dents, par­tic­u­larly in the (for­tu­nately) rare times when they have had Repub­li­can Con­gres­sional ma­jori­ties, have sig­nif­i­cantly in­creased the fed­eral debt far more than the Democrats. Of course these cal­cu­la­tions are all done on a per­cent­age of na­tional in­come (GDP) ba­sis. The logic? If we only have a small in­come and a small net worth, we can safely as­sume only a small amount of debt. The safe debt base amount in­creases with na­tional in­come and net worth.

The one ex­cep­tion to this trend is Bar­rack Obama who in­her­ited from Ge­orge W. Bush the worst fi­nan­cial cri­sis since the Great De­pres­sion. In the process of restor­ing our fi­nan­cial equi­lib­rium his debt num­bers came to look more like his Repub­li­can pre­de­ces­sors. Close be­hind is Ron­ald Rea­gan, our “Te­flon Pres­i­dent.”

To his ev­er­last­ing credit Rea­gan has­tened the col­lapse of the Soviet Union by in­creas­ing Amer­ica’s de­fense spend­ing, thereby forc­ing the USSR to fol­low suit. This strat­egy even­tu­ally bankrupted the al­ready­fail­ing Soviet econ­omy and has­tened the dis­so­lu­tion of the Com­mu­nist Em­pire. But Rea­gan failed to fund his in­creased de­fense spend­ing with a com­men­su­rate tax hike. He ex­pected Congress to cut en­ti­tle­ment and so­cial spend­ing to pay for it. That was naïve. Con­gresses, Demo­crat or Repub­li­can, are re­luc­tant to give up their pork. In real dol­lars, Pres­i­dents Tru­man, Eisen­hower, John­son, Nixon, Kennedy and Carter all re­duced the fed­eral debt. The big­gest win­ner in per­cent­age num­bers was Harry Tru­man. But the out­stand­ing over­all per­former in bal­anc­ing the bud­get and amass­ing rev­enue sur­pluses was none other than “Slick Willy” him­self, Bill Clin­ton. He re­duced the fed­eral pay­roll, cut en­ti­tle­ment spend­ing with his “Work­fare Act,” bal­anced four fed­eral bud­gets (1997-2000) and left a hefty bud­get sur­plus for his suc­ces­sor. Ge­orge W. promptly squan­dered this sur­plus on tax cuts fa­vor­ing the very wealthy and be­came our only pres­i­dent to cut taxes and de­clare war in the same year. How dumb can one get?

But here is what ex­as­per­ates me even more, the very essence of du­plic­ity. Of the states that get back more dol­lars from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment than they send to Wash­ing­ton in taxes, some dou­ble or more, al­most all are solid, rock-ribbed, an­ti­tax Repub­li­can south­ern states. Mis­sis­sippi, the red­dest of the red, leads the pack. Mis­sis­sip­pi­ans get back al­most two-and-one-half times what they send to Wash­ing­ton. Add this to the fact that these same states, all pro­fess­ing un­com­pro­mis­ing evan­gel­i­cal fun­da­men­tal­ist re­li­gious val­ues and morals, solidly voted for Don­ald Trump. Trump is a thrice-mar­ried se­rial repro­bate who makes no pre­ten­sion of es­pous­ing Judeo-Chris­tian val­ues. This has got to be the great­est man­i­fes­ta­tion of hypocrisy in re­cent his­tory.

And I ask again; which is worse: tax-and-spend Democrats or bor­row-and­spend Repub­li­cans?

Ge­orge B. Reed Jr., who lives in Rossville, can be reached by email at reed1600@bell­

Rossville res­i­dent

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