Conventional wisdom says there’s no political reward for opposing government spending. That’s because people love to be the beneficiaries of such spending.
Oh sure, people will tell you they think government should limit what it spends, say the vaunted political consultants. But try to take away the goodies people get for the money, they’ll go into a full-scale revolt.
This would explain why one party talks a good game about controlling spending, but neither party ever does anything about it.
When a Democrat is in the White House, Republicans bluster about how we’re spending ourselves into oblivion. When a Republican is in the White House, boy, we’d love to cut spending. But, you know, the military needs the money, and entitlements are a sacred obligation, and there are all these emergencies . . . yeah, maybe next year.
You can’t cut Social Security and Medicare because seniors vote. You can’t cut the defense budget because the world is a dangerous place. You can’t cut ObamaCare subsidies because the law makes them mandatory. You can’t cut ethanol subsidies because the senior senator from Iowa is a powerful committee chairman.
You. Can’t. Cut. Anything.
But the truth is that this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. We don’t cut spending because no one is really interested in trying. No one really believes there’s a political reward for doing so. But there would be a political reward if the people understood how they would benefit from it.
As it stands, the federal government spends more than $4 trillion a year in a normal year, before you tack on a trillion here and a trillion there for “emergencies.” But we’re taking in just over $3 trillion in tax receipts. That costs every American household, on average, $23,809 a year.
And since we have to borrow what the tax receipts don’t cover, we’re spending nearly $500 billion a year just to pay the interest on our $25 trillion national debt.
If the federal government could reduce its annual spending to $3 trillion, the public would benefit in several ways:
First, tax rates could be further reduced both for individuals and businesses.
Second, the private sector would have more capital to allocate toward business growth and job creation.
Third, the federal government would be forced to reduce its involvement in people’s lives.
Fourth, interest payments on the debt would actually start to go down, which would allow for a further reduction in tax rates.
There was a time when Republican politicians lived by promising lower taxes, and by hanging the threat of higher taxes around the necks of Democrats. Today, Republicans don’t believe the public cares about tax rates. They cite as evidence the Trump tax cuts of 2017, which were widely unpopular because middle-class people didn’t think their taxes are being reduced.
That’s because they kept hearing from the media that all the benefits were going to the rich. But a funny thing happened as 2018 progressed: Working-class people started to recognize that their paychecks were getting bigger, and they realized the media had lied to them about the tax cut.
It is not a political loser to tell people they have the right to keep the money they’ve earned. It is not a political loser to say the federal government should exercise the same fiscal restraint that families have to practice every day.
The challenge is that, when you make this case, you have to shout over the media and Democrats accusing you of being racist, anti-poor and whatever else. This is where Republicans usually shrink from the fight — because they aren’t prepared to answer those charges and they don’t think it’s worth the effort to try.
They need to try harder. The public wants to keep more of what it earns. The public wants a fiscally responsible government. But they don’t think either party is really serious about this, so they don’t believe there’s much point in electing Republicans as opposed to Democrats.
Let Republicans really get serious about this, and yes, they’ll take a lot of heat. You’ll see some real battles. But for the first time in a long time, you’ll see a real distinction between the two parties, and you’ll give the people who want to believe in limited government reason to believe there’s finally a party that wants to give it to them.
Of course, if you return to power by delivering limited government, your power is also limited. That’s perfectly fine. Don’t try to change a thing.
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