Don’t know whether this is a coincidence or the universe saying “Boo” to frighten anyone who cares about America’s fiscal health, but right on the verge of Halloween, it was announced that the federal deficit for 2017 will be $666 billion. Appropriate, if you think runaway debt is sending our kids’ futures to Hell in a hand basket. And the next budget, which will include needed infrastructure rebuilding, disaster relief and tax cuts, is expected to send it even higher.
To those who would respond that this means we need to raise taxes instead of lower them: you might have a point, if this were a one-time expense. But the fact that we’ve amassed so much debt leaves us no other alternative than to try to stimulate the economy to grow our way out of it. Many years of spending like money is going out of style have left us too deep in the hole ever to haul ourselves out by tinkering around the edges.
Governors whose states don’t have the easy out of piling up debt year after year sometimes have to raise taxes to get past a crisis, as I had to do in Arkansas (and I took a shellacking from so-called conservatives over it, as if saddling your grandkids with your own bills were a conservative principle.) In Arkansas, we faced a constitutional ban on borrowing money, court-ordered spending increases, and a budget that was going almost entirely to schools, medical care for the poor and prisons (or as I called it, “education, medication and incarceration.”) There was no fat to cut and no way to borrow, so we had to raise taxes temporarily. But I blocked attempts to keep them in place and got rid of them as soon as the budget crisis was past.
In Washington, any attempt even to scale back the rate of growth is greeted with hysterical claims that millions will die if the feds spend slightly less “more money” than planned. But the current proposed budget will spend $4.1 trillion. You can't tell me with a straight face that there’s no fat in there anywhere.
If nobody’s willing to take a scalpel to the federal budget, can we at least stick a liposuction needle into it?
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