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John Stossel
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It's the Spending, Stupid!

Comment

Listening to progressive media pundits, I'd think the most evil man in the universe is Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform. His crime? He heads a movement that asks political candidates to pledge not to raise taxes.

I think Grover accomplished a lot. But I wish he'd convinced politicians to pledge not to increase spending.

President Obama says raising taxes to cut the deficit is a "balanced" approach.

Balanced ...

But what's "balanced" about raising taxes after vast increases in spending? Trillions for war, Medicare, "stimulus" and solar panels. Tax receipts rose — after tax- rate cuts — from $1.9 billion in 2003 to $2.3 billion in 2008, the year the recession started. That increase couldn't keep up with the spending. The deficit doubled — actually, more than doubled — as politicians increased spending to nearly $4 trillion! Our debt, at more than $16 trillion, now exceeds our gross domestic product.

Ludicrous, irresponsible spending is why we're in trouble. As columnist Ron Hart points out, Bill Clinton's balanced budget spent $1.7 trillion. "Adjusted for inflation," he writes, "our federal government would (have) a $200 billion surplus. But instead of increasing government spending in line with normal inflation, under Bush and Obama we are spending $3.8 trillion today. Democrats, who believe we have a 'revenue' problem instead of a 'spending' problem, must also think they have a bartender problem, not a drinking problem."

The media obsess about tax rates, but spending is more important. As Milton Friedman taught us, spending is a far more accurate gauge of the government burden. If government spends a dollar, that dollar is taxed away from someone. If it's borrowed, it's removed from productive use, setting the stage for higher taxes later. If the government prints more dollars to fund spending, our purchasing power falls. Transferring purchasing power from the people to the government via inflation is a form of taxation.

If Republicans and Democrats reach a deal, the tax increases will be real — but spending "cuts" probably illusions. If they actually happen, they will only be reductions in already planned increases.

The Wall Street Journal notes that when the two parties talk about cutting spending by $4 trillion over a decade, "those numbers have no real meaning because they are conjured in the wilderness of mirrors that is the federal budget process. Since 1974, Capitol Hill's 'baseline' has automatically increased spending every year according to Congressional Budget Office projections ... . Tax and spending changes are then measured off that inflated baseline."

Given our growing debt, can't they even slow the growth of government to the rate of inflation? Or inflation plus 1 percent? Or even inflation plus 2 percent? That might balance the budget within a decade.

But the spenders won't even give me that. They want more. Always more.

Jonathan Bydlak, founder of the Coalition to Reduce Spending, has a good idea. "It's important to do for spending what Norquist has done for taxes: create a means for voters to hold elected officials accountable when they break campaign promises of fiscal responsibility."

Bydlak has no time for any politician who pledges not to raise taxes without pledging to cut spending. He praises Doug Collins, representative-elect from Georgia, and Ted Cruz, senator-elect from Texas, for signing the Reject the Debt pledge and thereby promising voters they would:

"ONE, not vote for any budget that is not balanced nor for any appropriations bill that increases total spending;

"and TWO, consider all spending open for reduction, and not vote to authorize or fund new programs without offsetting cuts in other programs."

Well, sure. Good luck to him.

But people are reluctant to give up their favorite programs. Or any programs.

Let's not fool ourselves about how dependent politicians have made people on government.

To succeed, the crusade to cut spending needs an ideological understanding of how unsustainable our current course is, not just a narrow appeal to short-term self-interest. People will have to see the wisdom of giving up government benefits now — in exchange for something more abstract: a future free society in which our children won't be burdened by debt and taxes.

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "No They Can't: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at <a href="http://www.johnstossel.com" <http://www.johnstossel.com>>johnstossel.com</a>. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2012 BY JFS PRODUCTIONS INC.

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Comments

3 Comments | Post Comment
John,

As usual, well put. The response to the common sense approach of cutting spending should be "well duh" however, somewhere along the way the phrase "I'm from the government and I am here to help" went from being a joke to being words to live by for upwards of 47% of the population. Personal responsibility and accountability both from ourselves and our elected representatives is the answer. It is not their money, it is our money. To paraphrase a recent quote: You (Mr. Obama, U.S. Senate, U.S. House) didn't earn that.
Comment: #1
Posted by: A. Kane
Wed Dec 19, 2012 10:24 AM
John,

I share most of your ideas, here is one more, why don't we implement a scoring method for congress something like what they do in hockey, +/- score while they are in office? During their public service if the national debt decrease then they have deserved their salaries and benefits, if debt increased at the end of their term then they lose eligibility for re-election, lose benefit and healthcare fore life..

Maybe that way they would feel responsible to actually achieve something during their public service.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Vicken Ishkhanian
Wed Jan 2, 2013 2:19 AM
SINCE GOVERNMENT HAS DETERMINED THAT OUR UNITED STATES PARKS SERVICE IS NOT ESSENTIAL ELIMINATE ALL FEDERAL COSTS TO THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AND TURN OVER TO LOCAL STATE CONTROL AND MANAGEMENT.
STOP ALL FOREIGN AID UNTIL WE ARE SOLVENT.
REQUIRE ALL OF CONGRESS AND THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES TO FOLLOW THE SAME LAWS PASSED BY CONGRESS. WHEN ITS LEADERS FIND THEMSELVES ABOVE THE LAW PLACES US IN JEOPARDY AS WE THE PEOPLE.
CUT ALL FUNDS TO NON CITIZENS, CUT ALL FUNDS TO STUDENTS UNLESS THEY PROVIDE MATCHING FUNDS,
STOP AND ELIMINATE THE FEDERAL EDUCATION DEPARTMENT AND TURN DIRECTLY OVER TO LOCAL STATE TO FUND AND MANAGE.
RAISE THE AGE AS WAS ONCE ENACTED THE AGE WHEN SOCIAL SECURITY IS MADE AVAILABLE.
CLEAR UP ALL FRAUD IN THE DISABILITY PROVISIONS OF SOCIAL GIVE AWAY.
MAKE SURE WHEN PROVIDING FOOD STAMPS THAT INDIVIDUALS WHO OBTAIN FOOD STAMPS HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO PROVIDE WORK OPPORTUNITIES AND PRODUCTIVE GAINS AS WELL AS FOOD STAMPS. POSITIVE WORK OPPORTUNITIES FOR ALL WHO WANT AND ARE ABLE TO WORK GENERATES POSITIVE AND WILL SET UP A SITUATION ALL WILL BENEFIT. DURING THE ROOSEVELT PERIOD IT WAS KNOWN AS WPA.
HAVE CONGRESS REDUCE VACATIONS AND HOLLADAY'S TO BE THE SAME AS PROVIDED IN THE PUBLIC WORK PLACE. ALL MY LIFE GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES ALWAYS HAD MORE VACATION AND HOLLADAY'S.
WE NOW HAVE DOCUMENTED PROOF THAT FEDERAL EMPLOYEES WHO HAVE THE SAME EDUCATION RECEIVING MORE PAY AND FRINGE BENEFITS THAN THE PUBLIC WORK FORCE. WE NEED EQUAL PAY AMENDMENTS AND BILLS PASSED TO MAKE IT MORE PROFITABLE TO BE EMPLOYED IN THE PUBLIC WORK FORCE.
STOP ALL FEDERAL SPENDING ON SELF SUSTAINING PROJECTS UNTIL WE BECOME solvent. EXAMPLE SPENDING PROJECTS TO BUILD A NEW AIRPORT AS APOSED TO SPENDING THE SAME DOLLARS BUILDING A FACTORY TO SELL PRODUCTS TO CHINA.
STOP ALL FEDERAL AND STATE SPENDING SUCH AS WHEN ATLANTA WAS BUILDING THE RAPID TRANSIENT SYSTEM WITH FEDERAL AND LOCAL STATE FUNDS, ATLANTA WAS NEGOTIATING WITH FRANCE TO BY ALL OF THE FRENCH MADE RAPID TRANSIT, AT THE SAME TIME IN WASHINGTON THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT WERE PASSING BILLS TO KEEP LOCKHEED FROM GOING UNDER WHEN BUILDING THE C5A. WE NEED TO TAKE OUR TAX DOLLARS AND BUILD OUR OWN RAPID TRANSIT SYSTEM. THIS CAN BE REMEDIED BY PASSING BILL PROHIBITING FEDERAL DOLLARS FROM BEING USED TO PURCHASE FOREIGN PRODUCTS UNTIL WE BECOME SOLVENT.
ANOTHER WAY CONGRESS CAN HELP IS TO MAKE SUE FOR EVERY DOLLAR SPENT ON FOREIGN PURCHASES THAT WE MAKE SUE WE HAVE BALANCED TRADE.
I COULD GO ON AND ON WE THE PEOPLE CAN SPEAK AND WE DO HAVE A VOICE.
TOM HYDE ONE SMALL VOICE.
Comment: #3
Posted by: TOM HYDE
Sun Oct 20, 2013 8:14 PM
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