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Coin-operated government

The Associated Press reports that “federal revenue collections hit an all-time high in April, contributing to a further improvement in the budget deficit for the year.”

Releasing its monthly budget report, the Treasury Department said Thursday that through the first seven months of this budget year, the deficit totals $80.8 billion, significantly below the $184.1 billion imbalance run up during the first seven months of the 2006 budget year.

So far this year, tax revenues total $1.505 trillion, an increase of 11.2 percent over the same period last year. That figure includes $383.6 billion collected in April, the largest monthly tax collection on record.

And yet, we’re told that every single thing we ask Barack Obama to do will require us to insert another quarter in the underfunded federal pinball machine.  He has, quite literally, told us that Washington expects to be paid more before it will think about spending less.  And the people paying the lion’s share of this money are constantly hectored for not “paying their fair share.”

Why on Earth do any substantial number of American voters tolerate this?  It’s easy enough to understand why power-hungry Democrats (and a distressing number of Republicans) go along with the idea that the first three trillion or so in government spending is just minimal overhead, and anything else we want – firefighters, meat inspectors, air-traffic control, soldiers, roads, Capitol Hill janitors – is going to take cash on the barrelhead.  Reduce the rate of spending growth by two percent, and all that stuff goes away.

But why should any self-respecting citizen agree that Uncle Sam must be paid off with fresh tax revenue, before he’ll even consider cutting down on the fruit-fly sex studies and federally subsidized Star Trek conventions?  After years of relentless federal growth – and just two months after massive tax increases, whose last-minute imposition is wreaking havoc among our already stressed-out tax serfs – why should it be unthinkable to call for some big spending cuts first?  Notice how politicians of every stripe are perpetually promising to eliminate billions in waste, fraud, and abuse… but they never actually do it.  That’s always a carrot dangled above our heads, and we might just get a nibble, if we agree to close a few “tax loopholes” and pay Washington a few billion dollars more.  Why should it be out-of-bounds to insist on that long-promised, top-down audit and reform before we entertain a moment’s thought of tax increases?

Part of the problem is that we are being held hostage with weapons purchased on the federal credit card five, ten, and twenty years ago.  Deficit spending builds leverage against the taxpayers of tomorrow.  Government “investment” binges aren’t one-time affairs; they build up spending baselines, with dizzying speed, until a return to the parsimonious tightwad spending of, say, 2010 becomes a “savage cut,” rolling the books back to 2008 is out of the question, and returning to the threadbare anarchy of 2005 would be tantamount to genocide.

The crazed deficit spending of yesterday was used to recruit a mighty Army of Debt.  You’ve heard their boots tromping throughout sequestration hysteria.  ”Cut two percent off the Department of Departmental Departmentalization?  Why, that would put dozens of Deputy Special Assistants to Assistant Secretaries on the bread lines!  Unemployment would spike!  Those bureaucrats are people too, you fiscally conservative monsters.”

Well, the private-sector employees Barack Obama’s policies have blown out of the workforce were also people, but you don’t hear any nostalgia about their fate from compassionate liberals.  Their jobs were a small price to pay for the glory of ObamaCare.  The private sector can always make do with less.  Its cuts are never “deep” or “draconian.”  Cutting spending by $44 billion is the end of the world.  Raising taxes by $44 billion is unworthy of comment.  That’s just pocket change pinched from “millionaires” who will barely notice its absence.

It’s an ironic role reversal: Obama-style coin-operated government has become every bit as mercenary as the private sector was ever accused of being by anti-capitalists.  What would you say to a company that provided services as broken, corrupt, and wasteful as the federal government… and snottily informed you that your monthly bills for its services would have to be increased, to cover the cost of cleaning up their act?  Americans are inviting the government to take over many areas of life formerly entrusted to their own judgment, but they’re not expecting anything like the accountability or quality of service they would demand from the smallest company providing the least expensive product.

And taxpayers lack the one almighty mechanism that ensures no private-sector CEO fails as comprehensively as the architects of ObamaCare, or the people who say they can’t run our under-achieving public schools with a penny less: we can’t take our business elsewhere.  Sequestration hysteria should serve as a powerful object lesson: Barack Obama doesn’t have to compete for your business.  He sees the irresponsible failure of his enterprise as nothing but leverage for raising your tax bill.  And he’s not shy about threatening anyone who objects too loudly.  We are at least four years away from being able to reach the key to the leg irons connecting us to this sparking, smoking, squealing pinball machine.

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