The political tsunami that rolled in Tuesday night has now, for the most part, swept back out to sea. It leaves a much changed landscape in its wake, having utterly drowned many a Democrat and their control of the House, and swept in enough Republicans to make the Senate fairly evenly matched. Being old enough to remember when this sort of sea change took place as far back as the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, my expectations of drastic change are not running wild. I counsel young conservatives to temper their enthusiasm and keep a tight leash on their hopes.
Now what? It seems fair to say that the voters made themselves loud and clear that they want Washington to concentrate on the economy and to rein in spending and the growth of government. The increase in the national debt over the past two years as well as mounting dread over the cost of Obamacare, which we are just now beginning to understand, has average citizens badly frightened. They understand the Keynesian economic theory behind the trillion dollar stimulus package only to the extent of knowing what happens to people and households who spend more than they have and borrow what they can’t pay back – quite well, in fact.
I watched one of those TV analyses featuring a moderator and a representative of each of the opposing conservative/Republican and liberal/Democratic viewpoints, debating the upcoming decision on the Bush tax cuts set to expire at the end of the year. The liberal stated with a bland assurance that it was now the “moral obligation” of the rich folks in the top bracket to accept higher taxes so as to pay for their “fair share” of the deficit. Those in lower brackets were not similarly constrained, it went without saying. The conservative asserted, of course, that no taxes should be raised in a recession.
The liberal argument represents an interesting attitude, that high income people, supposedly represented by the Republicans, are morally obligated to pick up the tab on the stimulus, for which not a single Republican voted. It was baldly misrepresented by Obama and the Democrats as medicine against unemployment going higher than 8%, which is now mired at 9.6%. The large part of it that was not plain old pork went mostly to bolster government payrolls, and was of no benefit to anyone in the private sector, least of all the top bracket.
And that argument aside, who is it that decides what the “fair share” of that top income tax bracket is? When the Bush cuts were passed, the middle and lower brackets got a higher percentage break than the top. Why should the highest bracket’s share in the tax burden rise higher now? And if a smaller and smaller minority of income tax payers are footing the bills, what natural brake will there be on spending at all? What is the moral obligation of high earners to pay for anything that lower income people – actually government – want?
Unfortunately, it is plain to all that the huge deficit is there and threatens to destroy our economy. Can we pay it down by further squeezing the private sector, against whom it was borrowed, or will that cripple the economy further, never mind whatever level of taxation its “moral obligation” is to government. It is certain that we can not tax, but must grow our way out of this mess, but can we begin to grow again, facing the enormous burden of debt taken on in just the past two years?
Obama and his allies were justly punished in this last election. They were elected to solve the crisis of this recession, but instead took advantage of it to advance an agenda of expanding government size and power in a way that the majority of Americans do not want and from which they won’t benefit. What all those happy new Republicans are supposed to do now, I’m not sure.