Some thoughts on the US' deficit dilemma. My PT (hiya Kipp!) is similar to many people who like to talk about the government as though it were a business, which echos the Republican view. From this point of view, there are two columns that matter: Revenue and Expenditures. So, when the business is in trouble, it can either generate more revenue, or it can cut back on expenses.
- Does our government spend too much? Yes.
- Does it spend more than it takes in? Yes again.
- So can cutting spending be a part of the solution? Yes a third time.
On the Revenue side, when money becomes tight, the business needs to generate more revenue. So it needs to sell more product, attract new clients, or raise prices on its goods/services. From the standpoint of the government, revenue comes from four sources: printing money; selling assets; borrowing money; and taxation.
- Should the government print more money? No, (though it does anyway) because this leads to inflationary pressures.
- Should the government sell some assets? Sure, but this doesn't seem to even be a part of the conversation, though it could sell Amtrak, for example, thus raising money and doing away with an expense at the same time...
- Should the government borrow money? Yes, as an alternative to printing money or raising taxes. Borrowing is a globally accepted method (since it began in the mid-1400's) of raising money swiftly to meet spending needs, and done judiciously, it is fine. We don't borrow judiciously, either as individual citizens or as a government, so this is a problem for us.
- Should the government raise taxes? Yes, given that the other alternatives aren't so great. I'm not sure where I am with the idea of a flat tax, but I do think that, in general, if the American people felt their tax dollars were spent responsibly and in a way that directly benefited them, most people would pay their fair share without too much grumbling. What's a "fair share?" Good question, I'll think about that and get back to you later on. (And I'm not going to word-smith it as the Obama administration is setting up to do. "Closing loopholes." Please...)
All that above, though, ignores a pretty simple fact: the government is not a business. The very nature of the Social Contract articulated by the Enlightenment thinkers and adopted by those who helped to found the nation is that the government exists to protect and preserve the citizens so that they may pursue happiness. This is the classic, though poorly articulated, position of the Democrats, who appear to believe that this generally means allowing the citizen and corporation-hogs to feed at the government trough to their hearts' content. As a result, our spending isn't targeted, isn't helpful, and needs to be revised. Time to slaughter some pigs, Nancy!
How we define "protect" and "preserve"and "happiness"in the 21st century is the conversation that we need to have as a citizenry. What is the role of the government today? What is the modern Social Contract? Answering this question will help to figure out a path to take into the future. The nation today is certainly a very different place with a population of 300+ million and stretching from sea to shining sea than it was in the 1790s, when the first census said about 3.8 million people called east of the Appalachians "home." Can we reasonably expect the same from our government in the 21st century as it provided in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries?
I doubt it...