For Democrats to insist, then, on $1 trillion in tax hikes without any substantive reform of entitlement spending was to negotiate in bad faith, not to mention forgetting their own President’s admonition about raising taxes during a recession. Nor should we think that $1.2 trillion of spending cuts over ten years triggered by the committee’s failure is going to solve our problems––assuming Congress does nothing to stop the cuts, something John McCain has vowed to do. According to Veronique de Rugy of the Mercatus Center, the so-called “spending cuts” are actually reductions in overall growth. Projections show that over the next decade, spending will increase $1.7 trillion without the cuts, and $1.6 trillion with them. Given the enormity of our debt and future commitments, this amounts to a rounding error.
Finally, blaming a “do-nothing Congress,” as Obama does, or cursing both parties for partisan “gridlock” let’s all of us off the hook. The President clearly intends to run a class-warfare campaign that blames heartless Republicans for our woes because they want to protect their wealthy patrons at the expense of the poor and elderly. We had a preview this May in the New York special congressional election, when ads appeared showing a Paul Ryan look-alike pushing an old lady in a wheelchair over a cliff, and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote that the Republicans’ demands for budget cuts “are literally stealing food from the mouths of babes.” Obama himself had set the stage for such rhetoric when he claimed that the Ryan plan embodied a “vision that says America can’t afford to keep the promises we’ve made to care for our seniors,” who the President alleged would have to pay $6,000 more for health care to finance “tax cuts for the wealthy.” But these Mediscare and class-warfare tactics will succeed only if enough voters endorse their dishonest logic. Unfortunately, a critical mass of Americans are addicted to government spending, and so are invested in keeping entitlement spending high and continuing other redistributions of income. Like the democratic mob in Polybius’ history of Rome, these voters prefer a government that uses its power to benefit those who are “habituated to feed at the expense of others, and to have [their] hopes of a livelihood in the property of [their] neighbors.”
Moral equivalence, then, is an evasion of our own responsibility. As the details of the super-committee collapse show, the contrast between the parties is clear: the Republicans want to cut spending without tax increases that inhibit economic growth; the Democrats want to raise taxes and increase spending without making substantial or meaningful reductions in the big three entitlement programs––which is another way of saying that they want to continue to redistribute wealth whatever the long-term cost. If the Democrats prevail, the fault will ultimately lie with those who put them in office.
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