Richard Cohen blamed Ronald Reagan for everything from Medicaid problems to infant mortality in his June 3 op-ed column. But, like much of what passes for "political analysis," his column was long on accusation and short on fact.
Cohen built his position on two premises. The first was that the federal government was strapped for revenues during the '80s. The second, not stated but implied, was that raising taxes reduces deficits. Fortunately for the taxpayer, facts belie both assumptions.
Between 1980 and 1989, federal revenues increased at an average rate of $60 billion a year. The federal budget doubled in just 10 years to nearly $1.2 trillion. Why then that nasty deficit? On this score Cohen was right in saying the government is "spending too much money," for while revenues increased by more than $500 billion during the '80s, spending increased by $600 billion. If federal spending had been limited to keep pace with inflation, the budget would be in balance today.
Those pesky things called facts made Cohen's implied premise equally implausible.
The most obvious evidence that tax increases do not reduce deficits comes from a simple look backward. Since World War II, a number of studies have demonstrated that for every dollar of higher taxes Congress legislates, Congress increases spending by $1.28 to $1.58. In short, when Congress raises taxes, it increases spending over and above what it raises.
The only way a tax increase would lead to a deficit reduction would be if Congress changed its ways. But after tax increases in 1982, 1983, 1984 and 1987 made no dent in the deficit, don't bet the farm on it.
The deficit problem does have a simple solution -- a spending freeze. A spending freeze for as little as two years would allow revenues to catch up with spending and would bring the budget into balance.
But such a freeze, of course, would take courage -- courage to resist the pressures of special interests that benefit from increased government spending and courage to resist the predictable media onslaught.
If, as Cohen asserted, the federal government is "starved" with its paltry $1.2 trillion budget, one can easily predict the journalistic outcry if the budget were frozen.
As Cohen illustrated, facts are not as critical to certain elements of the media as is having the "correct" (read "big government") political agenda. -- Guy Rodgers