YOU are a government program

by Pete Kasperowicz
Floor Action Blog, The Hill

Sometime in the last two weeks, as it began to sink in that House Republicans really do want to cut spending, and that Democratic talking points weren’t convincing the public that government spending is fine just the way it is, Democrats made two important strategic decisions.

First, they started to say in public that yes, government spending should be reduced. Once they started saying it, they seemed to be enjoying it. It does roll off the tongue rather well these days. And maybe they noticed that almost no one disagreed when they said that.

But they’re still Democrats, and that means they had to find some way to justify it. The way they got their heads around the idea of saying “let’s cut spending” is by finding a huge government program, so far ignored by most, that needs to be cut.

No, it’s not the Commerce Department. Even Democrats know that these silly departments, once maligned as the source of all red ink, are today much like our family’s budget for blimp rides — you could cut it to zero, and no one would notice.

Democrats found a doozy of a program, and if you get up and look in a mirror, you’ll see it. The program is you, and probably all of your friends.

The program is called “tax expenditures.” It’s the program by which the government “spends” money through the tax code. Like your mortgage interest deduction, or your dependent tax credit, or your itemized deductions, or a company’s tax breaks for hiring people. While you might see these as examples of where there is simply no tax applied, Democrats are now calling this a program, a spending program even, as if government had the money in its hands and then gave it back as subsidy for owning a house, having a kid, itemizing deductions, or hiring somebody.

President Obama finally referenced this program just last week, when he said we need “spending reductions in the tax code.” As opposed to saying, for example, “I want to raise your taxes.”
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) last week saw a dire threat in the growth of this program, pointing out that credits, deductions and exemptions in the tax code now “cost” the government over a trillion dollars a year, and warning that the cost of this program is rising. He even listed tax expenditures as one of the big three cost items in the federal government today, right behind defense spending and Medicare.

Aside from their soaring cost, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer went even further in March by saying tax expenditures (much like actual government programs) are leading to a less efficient economy, since companies and families spend millions of hours trying to minimize their taxes. He seemed to imply that we would all be much less put out, and could focus more efficiently at our riveting jobs or whatever it is we do, if all these deductions were just removed and we could pay a lot more in taxes, and faster. Perhaps like a flat tax, but maybe a flat tax of 60 percent.

“Our tax code is a monumental collection of rules and regulations, riddled with loopholes and preferences which are a drain on job creation and frankly exacerbate the deficit,” Hoyer said.

All of this gibberish is to say: let’s raise taxes. But it’s an interesting study of how the embarrassed Democratic party hides the request, and rationalizes a tax hike not as a tax hike, but rather a cut in a federal program that “gives” money to taxpayers. It’s also interesting to note that this “program” is the only one Democrats are willing to cut, the only whose efficiencies are so unbearable that it simply must be addressed.

But it’s more than just interesting. Letting Democrats pretend that dollar bills only avoid IRS capture at the whim of a government program, and that these dollar bills could be called back at any time, is a dangerous political easement that needs to be shouted down

© Copyright 2011 Tanna K, All rights Reserved. Written For: Tinytown Unleashed