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Opening Arguments

The real class warfare

Americans have voted for limited government, but they've never actually gotten it, and a growing number of people have figured out why:

I think the more significant cause, however, is the general one--a growing conviction that America is governed by a political class that has its own agenda, involving its own enrichment as well as the endless expansion of its own power, and that this political class is contemptuous of the opinions of ordinary Americans and is determined to impose its will regardless of how Americans vote. I think this perception is in fact true.

 It remains to be seen whether the American people can finally break the grip of a political class that remains determined to run their lives and misappropriate trillions of dollars of their wealth. It will be, I think, a close-run thing. In the meantime, there is no mystery as to why most Americans do not regard the federal government as legitimate in Jeffersonian terms.

I'm beginning to believe it won't be "a close-run thing" at all. The current level of debt cannot be sustained without new taxes and large infusions of taxpayer dollars, and the political class has no interest whatsoever in reducing spending.

I was struck by a Washington Post editorial reprinted in The Jouranl Gazette this morning in which the GOP was lambasted for disapproving of an extension of unemployment benefits "because it would cost $35 billion" but being untroubled by "digging the hole $678 billion deeper by extending President Bush's tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans." It would be hard to find a more cliched rendition of the effete class-envy justification for the progressives' redistribution-of-wealth agenda. The Post then trots out Republican Jon Kyl as the whipping boy for "Republican incoherence."

Mr. Wallace persisted: "But, sir, . . .how are you going to pay the $678 billion?" -- at which point Mr. Kyl descended into nonsense. "You should never raise taxes in order to cut taxes," he declared.

Huh? No one's talking about cutting taxes on the wealthy to stimulate the economy. The issue is whether the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans should be extended, adding another $678 billion to the deficit over the next decade.

Mr. Kyl does sound a little incoherent there, but it's easy to make someone soound that way if you don't agree with his agenda or just don't understand it, both of which are likely true in the Post's case. It's true that raising taxes in order to cut taxes is bad policy, but the unstated corollary is that cutting spending in order to cut taxes is the good policy.

That's what unites the two cases, in fact: Extending the uneployment benefits without offsetting budget cuts elsewhere adds to the deficit (and goes against the paygo system calling for such offsets, a program Congress started violating as soon as it approved it). And reducing your income (even income from those evil rich) without cutting spending also adds to the deficits. It's all about spending: Approve the unemployment benefits and offsett with cuts. Keep the tax breaks and offset with cuts. The Republicans seem to be having trouble making that message clear, perhaps in part because they have not always been such anti-spending purists, and no doubt largely because so many "watchdogs" in the press are just cheerleaders for the political class.

UPDATE: A good read from Victor Davis Hanson:

I think most of our problems transcend politics, which is increasingly a reflection of an elite, insider culture that is completely at odds with the majority of the country that it oversees.


Bob G.
Mon, 07/19/2010 - 9:25am

One of the hardest obsatcles to overcome will be to wean the general public off of this whole "entitlement" mentality.
After DECADES of governemnt giveaways, who wants to unhitch the horses from the gravy-train, and how popular will THAT be?
(short answer...not very!)

Both parties are able to share the blame with the deficit...the trouble is with so many "dirty hands", who's going to be the first to grab the soap?

Kevin Knuth
Mon, 07/19/2010 - 12:32pm

Did you happen to catch Mitch McConnell on "State of the Union" this weekend?

He was specifically asked more than once if he agreed that in order to overcome the deficit, at some point, we will have to raise taxes. He dodged the question several times- refusing to answer it.

When I listen to the Tea Partiers say "we are running up too much debt for our kids" I wonder how serious they are about that concern. Everyone knows that to pay off the debt 2 things have to happen- drastically cut spending (including the military) and raising taxes.

I would love to see Tea Party candidates run on that platform!

Kevin Knuth
Mon, 07/19/2010 - 12:34pm

Here is a transcript of part of his interview:
CROWLEY: OK, overall, though, a $13 trillion deficit, do you think there is a way to bring down and get rid of a $13 trillion debt without raising taxes?

MCCONNELL: I think that we have a serious problem here because we spend too much. I think we ought to concentrate on the spending side. I've on fact been encouraged by the comments of Erskine Bowles, who's one of the chairmen of the president's Deficit Reduction Commission, a Democrat, who's saying that he thinks two-thirds or three-fourths of the problem is a spending problem. So that's where we ought to --


MCCONNELL: That's where we ought to start.

CROWLEY: OK, could -- but could you say, categorically, that you would never support a tax increase?

MCCONNELL: I can say categorically that I don't think it's a good idea to raise taxes in the middle of a recession, and that is exactly what will happen if they let the Bush tax rates expire at the end of this year.

CROWLEY: Let me try this one -- one more time, and that is, do you see -- absent a recession, do you see a time when you're going to have to raise taxes in order to get rid of a $13 trillion debt?

MCCONNELL: Well, you can't say absent a recession. We're in the middle of a major economic slowdown.

CROWLEY: Oh, the recession wouldn't always be here.

MCCONNELL: The issue is what are we going to do now in the middle of this economic slowdown? I think raising taxes is a terrible idea, and the economists I talk to believe that it's a terrible idea.

CROWLEY: I'm going to call that a maybe.

tim zank
Mon, 07/19/2010 - 6:16pm

What's your point Kevin, that an ancient Reublican dinosaur is dodging the question? He is. So what. Mitch McConnell is no friend of the Tea Party. He's an old school pork laden politician with no balls that needs to be replaced by a conservative.

Mon, 07/19/2010 - 7:05pm

Kevin's point, if I may be so bold, is that our government budget has only three significant segments: Social Security, Medicare and the military. Everything is inconsequential.
If you're not willing cut at least one of those three - or raise taxes - then you simply can't reduce the deficit. This isn't a political opinion, it's arithmetic.
Old people, who vote, like Medicare and Social Security. Conservatives like a giant military and hate taxes. Liberal favor a much smaller military and favor higher tax brackets for the rich.
Obviously, there is no way to cut the deficit and keep everyone happy.
The Tea Partiers claim to have a plan to shrink the budget deficit, but are clearly unwilling to cut military spending or raise taxes.
That leaves Medicare and Social Security. I realize the Libertarians here are willing to cut those two, but how can a politician advocate cutting to beloved programs and expect to win any sort of general election. We old folks vote.
The result is that they simply refuse to answer the question.
I really don't see where McConnell's position is any different from the Tea Partiers'. Ad hominem attacks, such as calling him a dinosaur, hardly clear up your position. What, exactly, would you (if you were running for office) advocate cutting?
This is why the Tea Partiers may do well in primaries but have no chance in national general elections. They can't, or won't, answer that question.

Kevin Knuth
Tue, 07/20/2010 - 9:16am

Littlejohn- You are correct sir!