The Annual Fight over Spending and Taxes

Tue, 16 Sep 2008 14:41:02 +0000

Let me be the first to welcome Stan back from his trip out West. In the interest of financial market stability, Stan is hereby forbidden from ever getting back to nature again. Or, at least, getting back to nature without letting me short the entire financial sector first.

I will welcome him back as a co-blogger should--I'll take issue with his most recent column linked above. Not the whole column, which is unsurprisingly excellent, but the middle of the following three paragraphs:

From a federal budget perspective, what makes the national parks remarkable is that we use current taxes to maintain them. We’re not doing that just so those who are living and paying taxes today can enjoy the parks. We’re also doing it so that, unless nature decides something different, the parks will still be around for the great-grandchildren of our great-grandchildren and beyond. Taxpayers in 2008 are paying to preserve and maintain the parks that others will enjoy for a long time into the future.

In many ways, this seems be the essence of most other federal budget issues. The annual fight over spending and taxes is increasingly between those who don’t want to pay for federal activities they won’t enjoy personally and those who are willing to be taxed for activities that will primarily benefit someone else in another year, generation or life.

If you think about it in these terms, the constant debate over the deficit and national debt includes only part of what should be considered. Instead of being good or bad just for this year, the debate should also include at least some discussion about whether we are also doing what’s necessary to provide for the future.

Not quite. Let's change just a couple of words and make it this:

The annual fight over spending and taxes is increasingly between those who don't want to pay for federal activities that they will enjoy personally and those who are willing to be taxed for activities that will primarily benefit no one else but themselves.

Maybe if we grew up a little bit, we could mature into having the fight that Stan discusses in his post. At this point, I think we are still a long way off.