The Grover Norquist tax pledge signers want to limit the size of the federal government by not agreeing to any tax increases. Their strategy is to starve the beast, to force cuts in programs as the only means of balancing the budget. It hasn’t worked so well thus far. All the “no new taxes” pledge has done is get us budget deficits in excess of a trillion dollars for five years running, and as far as the eye can see on the distant horizon.
And according to an article in the Wall Street Journal by Chris Cox and Bill Archer, former members of President Clinton’s Bipartisan Commission on Entitlement and Tax Reform, a trillion dollars per year ain’t the half of it. Try a total stack of unfunded liabilities for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid of almost $87 trillion.
Here’s an idea. If Norquist tax pledgers wanted to really get some movement on reducing the leviathan, reverse course and require instead that all transfer programs be immediately funded in full through regular taxation. Last year, it cost roughly $7 trillion of annual accrued expense for the three cradles in the fed’s nursery. Fund them in full, and watch the pain force the cuts. Most of the signers of the Norquist pledge are Republicans. Reversing course and seeking massive tax increases would steal the Democratic thunder. And for all it matters, make whatever taxes are initiated to pay for the entitlement state massively progressive. In short, give the tax and spenders all they want. It is the only way to conclusively expose the fallacy in believing that a society can tax and spend its way to prosperity.
It has become clear that starving the Leviathan through refusing to increase taxes has not worked. The American people are either too stupid or don’t care that every penny of deficit spending today is that much less they and their children and grandchildren will have to spend tomorrow. Increase taxes now to make the entitlement programs pay for themselves now and in the future, and they might begin to realize that there are no free lunches. These trillion-dollar deficits are buying nothing except current consumption, and borrowing to pay for current consumption is not a path to prosperity. Since no one has the guts to lower federal entitlements–the true source of fiscal insolvency– simply raise taxes so much that the hue and cry will force cuts.