“A government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll see on this earth.”- President Ronald Reagan
As the debt nears the $16 trillion mark, we are debating if Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin’s comments are indicative of a Republican war on women; or if Vice President Biden’s “chains” comment is indicative of a campaign of racial pandering of the lowest kind. As we view these pathetic sideshows in the electoral arena, is it any wonder why the problems persist in worsening while nothing seems to be done about them? There is an unwillingness to face facts in the political class. As long as they can still promise government services in return for votes they are perfectly willing to ignore the fourth straight year of $1 trillion + deficits and blame any economic maladies on fluctuations in the Sea of Japan. This crosses the line of irresponsibility and flirts with the criminal when even the most, so called, radical reform efforts cannot even balance the budget inside of 30 years. We are facing a situation that could provide the dictionary with the definition of unsustainable but are afflicted with political leaders that are malignantly short sighted, incredibly selfish, and pathetically weak willed.
There are a few key drivers of our debt and the precariousness of our situation. Regardless of our tax rates and revenue levels the budget of the federal government is guaranteed to grow each and every year. Using a process called baseline budgeting the Congress ensures that we will be spending more and more year after year on the same programs and agencies. It also allows for politicians to claim that they are making important cuts to our budget when all they are accomplishing is cutting the pace which the budget will grow instead of cutting into the budgets of those bureaucracies themselves. One is hesitant to heap the totality of the blame against Congress for these measures. Our government is simply far too large to manage in any other way. If each individual agency, commission, department, and sub-committee was looked at and had to have a hearing to justify its’ spending each year we would have not time to tackle any other issues. The baseline budgeting technique allows for management with a minimal amount of oversight. In that sense the time is spent efficiently, but our money is not. The complexity of our budget process is also to blame in part for the morass that accumulates around the $3.6 trillion that we spent in 2011 alone. If one wonders why government cannot be more accountable with its money take a look at that number again. There is no possible way that $3.6 trillion can be readily accountable in a system this broken. Since that is the case, it is time we change the system.
Another ballooning issue that is crippling our economy, eating up our taxes, and inflating our debt is the rising cost of entitlement spending. When President Bush tried to use his 2004 election victory to take on Social Security reform he was roundly criticized. When Paul Ryan created a plan to reform the Medicare system he was actually portrayed as pushing an elderly woman off of a cliff. Such is as what passes for intelligent discussion nowadays. There is much noise surrounding the danger of the military industrial complex. It has become synonymous with stories of the boogeyman to listen to some of the warnings. For all of the hubbub surrounding defense spending, it was 19% of 2011’s budget. In the middle of two wars and numerous other “engagements” it was 19%. The spending on Medicare/Medicaid and Social Security however, was 43%. The interest on our debt was 6%. Combining the entitlements and interest gives us roughly half of our expenditures for 2011. This is money that is automatically spent and baked into the pie of every budget discussion. A balanced budget cannot occur without actual entitlement reform. That is not a talking point, it is a numerical fact. And with behemoths of this size, any actual discussion revolves around the how of payment. Without denying coverage to anyone, the current methods are not enough. There will be more retirements as the baby boomer generation ages, and that will increase the spending on these programs. The best estimations give these programs just under two decades to remain solvent, but all agree that they will become bankrupt. Instead of attacking those presenting solutions while hiding in the miry shadows of political doublespeak the FairTax establishes a way to ensure the funding for these programs while prioritizing government spending. Currently, tax revenue is received from multiple sources and those incoming monies are tagged for specific funds and areas. It is a maze of accounts and figures. The FairTax simplifies it in the best possible way. All money is collected from one source, the sales tax, and is deposited in a general fund. Not only will it result in more transparency, the process is begging to made into a pie chart, it will force politicians to prioritize their spending. We will know the revenue we are bringing in, now the questions is “where will we spend it?” The established priorities of both parties ensure that defense and large social programs will be covered and the discussions can focus on what the proper role of government should be. If Cowboy Poetry does not make the cut, it will be because we have deemed it not worthy of your tax dollars. No longer can it hide by taking money from some obscure fund established years ago. The same money offered to buy body armor for our troops will be spent on a $10 million remake of Sesame Street for Pakistan. Now you can see how radical a change this is to any other budget discussion. By placing all of the money in the same pot we can finally judge the wasteful projects against the necessary in full view of the public in terms we can all understand. And since asking for more money will literally be raising the price of milk, politicians will learn quickly how to live within their means, one election at a time.
The tax code itself is a great driver of debt. When it’s not driving corporations off shore, taking their jobs with them, it is demolishing the family and raising the cost of living. The complexity of the tax code also means that we are collecting less than we should in revenue, because of the numerous loopholes, the ease to evade, and the cost of compliance. Every penny we spend on the IRS is one that should be going elsewhere to a more profitable cause. There is also another deficit that gets less attention from the media. It is a trust deficit between those we choose to lead us and the people they supposedly represent. The tax code is the heart of this deficit. Every time we read about powerful political leaders getting censured, when corrupt politicians step aside legal charges to become influential lobbyists, when Congress participates in insider trading or passes a law that penalizes you for not having health insurance but opts them, their families, and their staff from those same restrictions we lose faith. We lose faith in a system that uses rules rigged from the start against those that wish to challenge them. We lose faith in a system that refuses to believe in the dignity of its own foundation, the individual. We have watched this subtle change from public servant to politician from the moment that we allowed them access to our pockets. Their greed has pushed them farther, their tenacity has not slackened, and their goal will never be reached. To begin the push back against an encroaching power you must cut them off from its source of strength, the unlimited and unobstructed grasp at our personal property. The moment we passed a law that demanded people remit the cash in their hands to a government agent before they were able to leave work put government in a place that it has no right to be. We lost the bulwark of liberty the day we ascribed the idea that government knew how to better manage our affairs than we did. It is long past the time to right that egregious wrong. We know that waiting for the FairTax to spring forth from a government committee on its own would be akin to waiting for our position in the stars to suddenly change. Luckily we are still Americans. And our forefathers wrote Declarations, created Constitutions, spilt blood, fought tyranny, instituted law, and brought down an empire because they knew man had the inalienable right to forge his own destiny. Our fates are not etched in the cosmos; we are not chained to the seasons or the sun. For us the dawn is always rising, we have seen the promise of the past, the hope of tomorrow is ours.