There is a lot of nonsense in this PJ O’Rourke piece in the current Weekly Standard (it’s always sad to see a funny guy become a scold), but he’s dead on when it comes to taxes and spending (Hat tip: Dan McCarthy):
Anyway, a low tax rate is not–never mind the rhetoric of every conservative politician–a bedrock principle of conservatism. The principle is fiscal responsibility.
Conservatives should never say to voters, “We can lower your taxes.” Conservatives should say to voters, “You can raise spending. You, the electorate, can, if you choose, have an infinite number of elaborate and expensive government programs. But we, the government, will have to pay for those programs. We have three ways to pay.
“We can inflate the currency, destroying your ability to plan for the future, wrecking the nation’s culture of thrift and common sense, and giving free rein to scallywags to borrow money for worthless scams and pay it back 10 cents on the dollar.
“We can raise taxes. If the taxes are levied across the board, money will be taken from everyone’s pocket, the economy will stagnate, and the poorest and least advantaged will be harmed the most. If the taxes are levied only on the wealthy, money will be taken from wealthy people’s pockets, hampering their capacity to make loans and investments, the economy will stagnate, and the poorest and the least advantaged will be harmed the most.
“And we can borrow, building up a massive national debt. This will cause all of the above things to happen plus it will fund Red Chinese nuclear submarines that will be popping up in San Francisco Bay to get some decent Szechwan take-out.”
It was bad enough to run deficits in the 1980s when we had to fight stagflation and the Cold War at the same. Back then, however, we needed to peel back 70 percent tax rates while simultaneously repairing our defense capabilities. Unfortunately, everyone took the wrong lessons from the Reagan-era deficits. Those who noticed the red ink decided that tax cuts cause deficits and that tax hikes are the best way to balance the budget. Those who noticed the phenomenal economic growth decided that deficits don’t matter and that Republicans could fight tax-and-spend with borrow-and-spend. Repeat after me: big spending is the enemy of low taxes.
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