If Our Leaders Gave Us What We Need, We Would Never Want
It sounds great to pay less in taxes. But there are consequences worth considering:
A lower debt also sounds pretty good. We would pay less in interest for it over time. But reducing the debt means one or both of two unpopular ideas:
(1) Raise taxes. Good luck! No one believes that they are not being taxed enough!
(2) Cut spending. But that will get a strong reaction. That is because almost all of us are affected by government spending. Consider:
Do you know of anyone who depends upon Medicare or Social Security? Odds are you probably do. Try telling them government spending is bad. It seems that when people want spending cuts, they think it won't affect them. And they don't want to handle the consequences of those spending reductions.
Governments exist to tax us and spend the money for collective purposes. Few would argue that the government needs to spend on defending us, assisting the sick, the young and the elderly and in maintaining infrastructure like freeways and bridges. These kinds of expenditures take up most of the budget and are not seriously debated among members of Congress.
What about the part of the budget that is debated?
These expenditures are known as "discretionary" because they go beyond the typical outlays each year.
One example of discretionary spending is the money spent on fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some have calculated total expenditures so far to be in the trillions for both. It shouldn't be hard to cut this spending, perhaps even completely, on the grounds that neither nation was any threat to us.
But the problem is that wars are not fought with any sense of rationale or any attempt to win. The fact is that we have not fought a war for the valid reasons of self-defense in several decades. Our wars, at least from Viet Nam on, have been fought to enrich the "War Party" of contractors, generals and those who live to challenge the patriotism of others. Winning the war is not the goal; helping this party of people make a stack of money is.
What if we wanted something environmentally or otherwise socially responsible? We could agree to a tax raise to fund an extravagant and efficient train system, modeled after the one in Japan. But how could we stop the automobile lobby, which usually opposes this idea? Or convince people to give up their cars which cause so much of the pollution that we breathe?
There is nothing new for Congress to offer us anymore. Our relationships with those in power no longer have anything to do with money, other than the usual "pork" given to some members of our districts.
Now is the time to focus on the things our elected officials should really provide: the courage to confront the criminals among their own, the candor to tell us the truths we do not want to hear and the creativity with which to solve new problems. Some day we may yet mend the rift in trust that the public has with those in power. And with that trust we would feel better about who we are and where we live.
Sometimes it is better to get what you need rather than what you want.