Economics always trumps politics. But the political card sharps never seem to learn that simple lesson. Presidential candidate Kerry found out that it isn’t advisable to vote for war (an “honorable” one or a “dishonorable” one) and against the money to wage that war. No military organization can conduct a war without money to pay the soldiers, to feed, clothe, transport, and house them, and to buy the necessary supplies and armament. By having two votes in Congress: one for declaring war and the other for funding (or not) that ambitious regime changing enterprise, our nation’s leaders have played into the hands of the devious Devil that demolishes Democracy.
Too often our federal or state governments approve a program with only the vaguest estimate of what it will cost and only a general idea where the money for the program might come from. All humans want to do things, go places, alter the monotony of their routine lives by amusing themselves, but most of these folks don’t have the price of admission.
All of us may want new or expanded public services, but we don’t want the most expensive and complicated version that the government usually offers us (e.g. the complicated income tax.) Frequently, an inattentive, over-worked, and possibly corrupt auditor or inspector is in charge of watching the runaway costs that society eventually will have to pay somehow, sometime for the inefficiency and lack of diligent oversight! (The current recession comes to mind, no?)
If the majority of the general public is satisfied with what the government is doing now, then any vote for a new entitlement, an enhanced program, or a war should be automatically considered a vote for new or increased taxes. You can’t have something additional or better without paying for it, can you?
Economists warn us that there are no free lunches, but we won’t believe them. We’d rather listen to the bold promises of the smiling, ambitious, arm-waving, finger-pointing politicians who say that they are going to give us what we deserve as soon as possible. But the deceitful Devil is somewhere messing around in the details with lobbyists so that the implementing regulations are seldom completely explained to or understood by the public.
The Republicans claim that they are going to win the war on terrorism if it takes forever. The Democrats claim that they are going to built national strength and improve homeland security. While all this is underway, the stressed-out wage earners/tax payers are asked to pay for the political conventions, the fund raisers, the advertising campaigns, the cost of administration in D.C., the growing interest on the debt, the numerous wars, and the eventual inefficient fulfillment of sketchy political promises about expanded entitlements.
Meanwhile on the road to paradise in the U.S., state legislatures convene and decide that it wouldn’t be politically acceptable to raise taxes except on the very rich. However, those rich supporters are paying the tab for them to be elected. What a dilemma for these poor legislators! “Well, let’s vote for what the polls indicate are the programs the citizens desperately want and figure out later how we are going to pay for that,” suggest our elected state representatives.
“Aye!” resounds in the legislatures of all state capitols. Ah, the dastardly Devil is doing his thing: please the folks first, of course, then make them pay the consequences for indulging in their myriad pleasures. Quite a nice bargain, eh, Dr. Faustus! How many generations of indentured children must pay for the benefits awarded to their parents, Mr. Mephistopheles? (Don’t ask, because the Devil won’t tell you.)
As the federal debt soared past the $7 trillion mark in 2004, some concerned economists (the waffling Dr. Greenspan excluded) began to worry. The politicians promised us back then that the economy would pick up eventually and tax revenues would indubitably follow. A booming economy based on increasing imports of oil and other less essential consumer products, speculative housing and stock markets, and a growing population of immigrants would be sustainable.
Record deficits would disappear, and citizens would again see those phoney optimistic forecasts of budget surpluses that triggered the last series of federal tax cuts for the over-taxed middle class. Hang on, pessimists and cynics, the good times are coming back. Haven’t they always come back in America? You just have to have faith!
The delighted Devil is smiling. He knows better. Human nature, being what it is, optimistic humans can’t resist the generous amount of credit available. Americans need the latest gizmos, the fanciest SUVs, the hottest names in clothes, and the most expensive lifestyle to prove that they are the smartest people in this materialistic world.
Voters want universal health care, poverty reduced, crime stopped, the biosphere protected, and peace in the world. However, they can’t afford all that with the interest burden they already have from prior indebtedness and the cost of homeland security and multiple military engagements throughout the planet.
“Divide and conquer,” says the diabolical Devil. Vote first for civic improvements, and then for increasing taxes. In California the first vote requires only a 50+% majority, the later a 67% majority. That makes sense, doesn’t it? Why shouldn’t the disreputable Devil be pleased?
The voting in Sacramento is not really about equality, justice, fairness, and taking care of those who can’t take care of themselves. It’s about taking care of those who are the legislators and the wealthy decision-makers. It’s about getting re-elected, maintaining a poorly regulated capitalistic system, and promoting Democracy to the naive in the world. Any taxation without competent folks representing and defending the public’s interest would be tyranny, wouldn’t it?
It’s the despicable Devil’s idea to separate the supposedly moral church from the amoral state and isolate the vote on increasing benefits from the vote on increasing taxes. When the secular leaders fail to balance the budget, they go to the citizens with half-hearted propositions to confirm voters’ disinterest in increasing taxes on themselves! Then, a sly legislature will approve bonds or loans to push the payoff into tomorrow because that’s not as unpalatable to taxpayers.
“Why not reduce government spending on all those programs that don’t benefit us instead of increasing taxes?” reason the unhappy voters. “Cut out the fat and trim the bureaucracy!” is often heard in the streets.
If the United States was a Second or Third World country, it would be hard to borrow the money needed. But as long as the rest of the world wants to believe in the soundness of the American economy, the disdainful Devil will be pleased.
Everywhere more human souls will be tempted to bargain with him for political asylum in this Godforsaken capitalistic enterprise or to obtain the high-tech material pleasures that so many of us consumers enjoy in America. Some trusting foreign folks might even be influenced to adopt some ineffective form of democracy in their forlorn countries and to welcome the globalization of our free-wheeling “borrow from the future” democratic capitalism.
Sooner or later, however, the determined Devil will show up to collect the debt we owe him for our foolishness and profligacy.