Cuts First!

Cut First! Andrew Sullivan (along with Ezra Klein and every other respectable center-left writer)  believes the solution to the deficit problem will require a “balanced” mix of budget cuts and tax increases. Of course it will. But that doesn’t mean the partial deficit cut package Obama negotiates now has to include tax increases.  Why can’t we have a deal with just tough spending cuts (and some stimulative short-term tax cuts)? We can raise taxes later.**

Sullivan is guilty of punditism.  He wakes up every  morning believing he must have a full solution for each and every policy problem. Then the policymakers can implement these thoughtful solutions–sort of like pressing a button. Cuts and tax increases! Shared sacrifice! That’s the fair and responsible plan. Where’s my check?

But policies can’t be implemented by pressing a button, or saying “Let’s do what Sullivan says.” Deals must be honored over time, and parties rightfully distrust each other. Opponents of illegal immigration, for instance, don’t trust “comprehensive” reformers to follow through on the border-enforcement part of the deal once they have their amnesty (they didn’t after 1986). So sequencing becomes important. Do the “enforcement” parts first, to gain the trust of the restrictionists. Then, after a few years, amnesty is possible. Try to do it all at once and it doesn’t happen, as we’ve seen.

Same with the deficit, no? Opponents of bloated government don’t trust politicians to make cuts if extra revenues are in the offing. Neither, sensibly, do many voters.  But if you make dramatic cuts, demonstrate you’ve sweated out the fat–and there’s still a deficit, you’ve got a shot at getting a tax increase through. Cuts First! You could start with the Department of Education’s Office of  Civil Rights.

In any case. it’s inane to argue that every step on the road to deficit reduction has to be a balance of cuts and tax increases. That’s like saying you can’t take a piss unless you’re taking a drink.

P.S.: It’s not as if a cuts-only deal to avert a debt-ceiling crisis would be the easy way out. Cuts are hard–arguably harder, at the national level, than even raising taxes, which is why, as now, adding revenues is so often the politicans’ path of less resistance. We are also up against the syllogism:

a) If you can’t cut the fat out of government during economic bad times, because, hey, we need the stimulus of government spending and

b) You can’t cut the fat out of government during economic good times, because,’ Hey, there’s plenty of tax revenue so why the sense of urgency?,’ then

c) When will you ever cut the fat out of government? Never, that’s when. Instead it will build up over the decades like sediment until we reach … the present circumstance.


**–A cuts only deal would certainly satisfy militant punditist demands for “sacrifice.” Cuts are a form of sacrifice, after all–and when they come in the form of “means testing” they are a sacrifice borne by the more fortunate. … Soaks the affluent. Protects the non-affluent. Shrinks government now to make room for expansion later. Sets the table for future tax increases. For a liberal, what’s not to like?

  • Tess_Comments

    The following works for me:

    deal with just tough spending cuts (and some stimulative short-term tax cuts)? We can raise taxes later

    It is time for Obama to act like a Responsible Grown-Up.
    Cut the US Federal SPENDING, NOW.
    Work within a BUDGET.
    No More Blank Checks for Obama.
    Stop the Scare Tactics.
    Stop the Class-Warfare.
    Stop Playing Political Chicken.

  • Dredmalice

    Joeedh you and I live on different planets. We ‘almost’ had a financial crisis in 2001? Definitely in the country I’m from. And there is actually evidence that something would have been better than what Bush did. It’s called ‘What Clinton Did’. Raise highest marginal tax rates. Target tax rates for lower and middle classes. Economy booms, everybody wins. Bush Re-inflated the stock market? That’s just nuts. He earned the nickname ‘Dowkiller’ on the street. The rest of your post is nonsense as well, but more obviously so to the casual reader. Tax cuts don’t ‘happen’ in recessions. They are either passed or not passed. Or they are actually tax increases. WHen they are increased, as in the early nineties and early eighties, they help recover from recession. When they are lowered, as in the early 2000’s, they help destroy an economy.

  • motionview

    The Won: Don’t use debt “as a gun against the head” of American people. Now that’s presidential! Hearing that kind of 3rd world dictator rhetoric really makes people want to make long terms investment in a country.

    • motionview

      Any comment yet from Gabby Giffords on the president’s violent rhetoric?

  • Dredmalice

    The only ‘stimulative’ tax cuts are those that affect people making $150k or less, at the starting point of our current tax schedule.

    • Dredmalice

      Umm, and I guess this needs pointing out to Daily Caller ‘readers’ – The Republicans will never allow tax cuts solely for people making $150k or less.

    • motionview

      Yeah, I understand those making less than $150K per year hire lots and lots of people.

      • Dredmalice

        Actually they do, since small business employs most of the workers in America.

        However, even if that were not so,the simple fact is that job creation has long been associated with higher taxes for the wealthy, and lower taxes for the lower and middle class. Liking it less doesn’t make it less so.

        If you don’t believe me just look at the unemployment rate. It’s rise strongly correlates to the implementation of the Bush tax cuts. The simple fact is, large corporations, when given a tax cut, don’t run out and say “oh boy, we have this extra money, let’s hire more people even though the work force we have in place now is getting the job done” No, the more realistic scenario is that lower-wage workers have more money, they buy more goods and services, so businesses hire more people to meet those demands. ANd those businesses that want to make more money (maybe because they have had to pay slightly more tax) will expand to try to meet those needs before their competitors do. It’s called capitalism. I’m surprised you’re not familiar with it (Surprised? He is a daily caller reader, after all – ed) Well, maybe frustrated is a better word.

        • hitnrun

          “If you don’t believe me just look at the unemployment rate. It’s rise strongly correlates to the implementation of the Bush tax cuts.”

          Sure, if you take lots and lots of drugs. To a sober person, it looks like it correlates to economic performance, with the recent spike exacerbated by a lack of confidence (or actually, perfectly negative confidence) in the people controlling taxes and regulation. “Liking it less doesn’t make it not so.”

          • Dredmalice

            You do’t have to be on drugs, you just have to look at the numbers. Tax cuts typically signal an oncoming recession, and raising taxes (with the associated spending) is one of the most effective ways to get out of a recession. And a ‘spike exacerbated by lack of confidence’ is just a word salad that you think explains something, but doesn’t at all. Not to mention that since two recessions started under Bush, how do you manage to somehow exempt him from your tin-foil-hat conspiracy theories?

          • joeedh

            Excuse me Dredmalice? That’s no different then the supply-side nonsense of tax cuts leading to more revenue (I know, I know–tax cuts do partially pay for themselves, but only *partially*).

            Tax cuts do not lead to recessions, nor do they signal good times. After all, they tend to happen *in* recessions. This is not to say they are a panacea. Bush’s strategy was to re-inflate the stock market, postponing the financial crisis we almost had in 2001. In hindsight this was disastrous, but there’s no evidence anything else would have been better (the root problem was the distribution of global demand, with too much in the U.S. and too little in Asia. You can’t solve that unilaterally, and it took the financial crisis to show Asia that export-lead growth was mutually defeating).

  • Pingback: Why a round of cuts without higher taxes is necessary | Kyle Wingfield

  • Pingback: Possible new debt-ceiling compromise: GOP to agree to cuts in defense spending? « Hot Air