Making the Cut: The Conservative Team in the 21st Century, and the Question Reagan was Never Asked..
The argument for Tax Cuts goes always thus: “Tax cuts are good because they increase revenues to the treasury“. As arguments go, it is empirically true. Further, Arthur Laffer‘s curve is inarguable, as well: Somewhere between total confiscation of a man’s income, and zero collection of taxes on the same, lies the perfect point at which this man continues to create more wealth, which creates more revenue to the taxing authority– without drying up either entity. Somewhere in this milieu, though, is the unknown component of human choice, and how it acts –or doesn’t– as a moral character. We tend to assume that people will act in their own best interests, (Adam Smith, call your office) and thus, the man husbanding his money will act in respectable self regard. We also assume –in this country– no outside interference, or, at the very least, dispassionate interference. The problem, as it turns out, with the Laffer Curve is that we assumed that the taxing authority was acting dispassionately, and was a moral actor in receiving the maximum amount of revenue at the arrow-point high of the curve. Clearly, though, we now KNOW this isn’t true. More dollars, more money, somehow gave the massive central government an incentive to simply spend more— and consume more. It was uninterested in how, precisely, the money arrived in Washington in ever-increasing amounts– it just did, and that was all that mattered. Governance, (as juxtaposed against “government“) by its very nature, exists only in the moment, and, at the moment, revenues were always increasing. Government had no reason to expect it would ever change once it began its steady rise. The American ex-pats, (Eanest Hemmingway, Gertrude Stein, Alice Toklas, et al) and all the other collected flotsam in the salons of post-Great War Paris slouched around for half-a-dozen years, and gnawed the ends of a very imporatant question that we suddenly face ourselves today: All of this great and much-vaunted Civility, and Scientific Progress and the Ascendency of Polite Society did what, exactly? Civilization, at the bombed-out ends of World War One turned out to be distinctly uncivilized. If all this refined Christian culture simply devolved to the deaths of thirty-eight million souls, what good was it? Here, nearly 100 years later, as we stare into the bombed-out crater that is the United States Federal Debt, the question was never asked. “Why, precisely, do we want more revenue to go to the treasury? What good was it?” It is interesting to ponder, especially in light of how the language has flipped in the last hundred yeras. Those on the vanguard, such as Picasso and Ezra Pound, were the epitome of anti-Western hedonistic self-indulgence at the end of World War One and have been the lost-wax mold of all the 20th-century “liberals” and hippies to come. In contrast nowadays, the “liberals” are the most ferocious defenders of an anti-creative, sclerotic, stultifying status quo, the very antithesis of anything resembling “liberalism”. Also, it points to a way out of the rhetorical staleness of politics today for all Constitutional Traditionalists: Tax Cuts may “work”, but there is something far more moral: Government Cuts And in that sense, Reagan at his zenith was only half right. The rising tide of prosperity lifted all boats… including the monstrously huge barge of the Federal Leviathan. But why, exactly, did we want that to happen? Wouldn’t that, paradoxically, have only one result– that which we now witness, which is an over-larded federal government, utterly awash with cheap money (or the illusion of it with unending bonded indebtedness)? The Federal Government, rather, ought to be viewed as a cancerous (if needed) carbuncle on the Body Politic, and it ought to be starved of it’s lifesblood: money. THIS is the real moral argument for tax cuts, here in the land of the Democrat Downgrade. We now know that increased revenues to the federal government have the effect not of funding current activities and obligations, but of creating an unslakable thirst for more and more and more government. Also, it has the effect of creating a government which is fundamentally ungovernable, and it redounds to itself powers it was never granted by the people– but, because there is so much money sluicing around, SOMEONE has to stand around and watch it flow hither and yon. And that someone has grown to 2,000,000 souls. But, Tax Cuts have the argumentative advantage of being solid, numerically concrete: “20%” equals a certain, knowable amount, and so on. Government Cuts, though, are somewhat rather more amorphous. I guess we could simply propose a reduction in the total number of pages in the Federal Register, but, tyranny has a way of slithering around this sort of restriction; for example, the words “You Can’t!”, take up very little room on the printed page. Taking a cue from the stir caused by the House Committee on Un-American Activities, and the Senate Watergate Committee, I think we’d be better off if we made it a Presidential or Senate Select Committee, and did some bold, rigorous, thoroughgoing (and televised) investigating. I suggest calling it the “Select Committee on Freedom and Markets”. The name alone would cause liberals to pull out their own teeth in angst. This committee would have broad powers to call experts, leaders and actual participants from the entrepreneurial and business worlds and elicit from them recommendations on the elimination of the most abusive, onerous and wasteful government regulations and agencies, and determine from these witnesses what has to be eliminated in the near, close and far terms. Further, it could call leaders from state and local governments, and determine from them which federal government edicts are the most burdensome and specious, and then eliminate those immediately. In two years time, we could greatly reign in the power and scope of the national government, and return to it a flavor of “federal” government. It would be delicious to watch these hearings where, instead of flogging Oil Executives about “windfall profits”, or interrogating bank officials while they defend ATM fees, we would hear, day after day, the nightmarish stories about Department of Education SWAT teams swarming the homes of law-abiding citizens, or of farmers being put out of work by “endangered” rodents, or of small businesses bankrupted by the inability to file form 1024AN-XD439 by the proscribed time, only to find it was supposed to be form 1024AN-XD439-B. We would be treated, newscast after newscast, to the tales of all the non-stop abuses free-born citizens take at the hands of a pernicious, dangerous, tyrannical and arbitrary National government, and the lives it’s destroyed. Then, we would quickly eliminate those departments which are the most responsible for these abuses. Let these stories stew in the minds of the American people, like the scares of alar on apples, or fire retardants in cattle feed, until the moral imperative becomes the actual reduction of the state. Political theater has its advantages, and the radical left has always known it. The preservation of our institutions and constitutional traditions insists we now do the same. Like rape, taxes have less to do with revenue than they do with power. And the source of the power is the vast administrative and regulatory state. There will be no restoration of the American traditions of freedom, prosperity and progress until this state is seriously –and I mean seriously– pruned, trimmed, and reigned in. Tax Cuts are fine. Government Cuts are better.