Barring a last-minute breakthrough, taxes will go up for every U.S. taxpayer on Jan. 1 — and that’s a development conservatives should welcome.
Don’t get me wrong: It would be better not to raise taxes on anyone, pursue pro-growth tax reform and cut the size of government instead. But that’s not what the American people voted to do last month. Americans cast their ballots for big government.
Now it’s time to pay for it.
Until now, the growth of government under President Obama has not hit the pocketbooks of most Americans. During Obama’s first term, federal spending grew to more than 24 percent of GDP — the highest it has been since 1946. Yet almost no one in the country (except smokers and those who frequent indoor tanning salons) saw their taxes rise. Quite the opposite: 160 million Americans saw their payroll taxes reduced from 6.2 to 4.2 percent.
How can we expect people to care about the growth of government if it doesn’t cost them anything?
Instead of paying for the current miasma of spending, we’ve been borrowing the money from our children and grandchildren. The national debt has grown by nearly $6 trillion in the four years since Obama took office. That generational theft cannot continue. We must not keep financing big government by passing the bills on to the next generation. Ideally, we would stop the spending binge and live within our means. But if the nation is not up to that, then we should all pitch in and pay for it — all of us.
Sorry, taxing the rich won’t solve our problems — that’s nothing but fiscal snake oil the president has been selling. He is demanding $1.3 trillion in higher taxes on the wealthy over 10 years. Imagine he got it. We are adding nearly that much to the national debt every single year. Taxing the rich would not put even a minor dent in our debt. It would pay for less than three weeks of federal spending every year. The only way to pay for the current expansion of government is to raise taxes on the middle class.
So let’s do it. Let’s all of us experience the true cost of big government in the form of a bigger tax bill.
It might well be that the biggest mistake Republicans made during Obama’s first term was forcing the president to extend the Bush tax cuts. At the time, it seemed like a major victory by the newly elected GOP House. But in truth, it was a victory for Obama. Extending the tax cuts shielded the economy from the full brunt of Obama’s economic failures and allowed him to put off job-killing tax increases until his second term. It’s ironic: Obama never passed up an opportunity to blame President George W. Bush for his economic woes, yet he rode the Bush tax cuts to reelection.
Extending the tax cuts also shielded Americans from the costs of Obama’s spending spree. Shopping on a credit card is fun until the bill comes due. But if the bill never arrives, what incentive do people have to stop the spending?
Big government is great if you don’t have to pay for it. Well, now it’s time to pay the bill. Maybe when the costs of the stimulus, Obamacare and exploding entitlements are finally deducted from their paychecks, Americans will rediscover the virtue of smaller government. If they don’t like paying higher taxes to allow for more spending, there’s a simple solution: Demand that politicians in Washington cut taxes and spending instead of expanding them. And if they won’t do it, elect men and women who will.
Until then, Republicans need to stop protecting Americans from the consequences of their decisions to elect profligate politicians.
Marc A. Thiessen, a fellow with the American Enterprise Institute, writes a weekly online column for The Post.