This past week, Congressional Democrats took credit for news that, in 2009, Americans paid the lowest percentage in taxes to the federal government in 30 years. Although this is due to the fact the recession slashed Americans’ incomes across the board, they are using the occasion to applaud President Obama for tax cuts passed in the 2009 stimulus bill as they lobby simultaneously for increased taxes on the wealthy.
Using the growing national debt as cover, the real impetus for this renewed call to raise taxes on households making $250,000 or more annually is to create tax policy that appears fair. Even raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans to 100 percent will do little to address the national debt.
Such political shenanigans are, unfortunately for everyone, par for the course. Frighteningly few politicians care to discuss how lower tax revenues combined with historically high levels of government spending are a surefire recipe for increasing the national debt.
Seriously addressing our current problem requires clear thinking on the precise cause of debt. Debt itself is not so much the problem as the behavior that creates it. Duquesne University economics professor Antony Davies argues this point succinctly, saying, “People say that the government has a debt problem. But debt is an effect. The cause is deficits.”
Deficit spending combined over many years creates a large debt. Because the federal government has long been spending more than it takes in tax revenues, we now face a $16 trillion debt, an amount that has grown by $5 trillion in the last four years alone.
Because it is overspending — and not a fall in revenues — that creates debt, we have created the Coalition to Reduce Spending. Our mission is to create a large, diverse, bipartisan constituency to reduce federal spending across the board. We aim to tackle the federal debt problem while it is still solvable to avoid both economic disaster and risking our national security.
This week, we’re announcing a milestone in our effort. Several leading candidates for federal office in Texas have signed our hallmark Reject the Debt pledge. If successful in their respective runoff races on July 31st, U.S. Senate candidate Ted Cruz and U.S. House candidates Wes Riddle (TX-25) and Jessica Puente Bradshaw (TX-34) have pledged to not vote to raise the debt ceiling and not borrow more money to pay for spending programs. They have also committed to supporting only balanced budgets, and to consider all government spending fair game for reduction. The three Texas candidates join Minnesota Republican U.S. Senate nominee Kurt Bills and Scott Keadle from North Carolina’s 8th congressional district.
These candidates have gone on the record when it comes to tackling the root cause of our growing national debt. In the coming weeks we will announce additional signatories from throughout the country who understand we must reduce government spending today.
Time is of the essence. Baby boomers are beginning to collect Social Security and enroll in Medicare. The federal government has gone over 1,000 days without a budget, and the economy is still in the doldrums. Overspending today means pain tomorrow, and the sooner we tackle this problem, the less pain we will have to face.
Instead of advancing unproductive feel-good tax policies, Washington’s decision-makers should have the courage to analyze the problem we face and move to fix it. Serious debt-warriors must reduce spending now.
Richard Lorenc is a board member at the Coalition to Reduce Spending. He works as a policy consultant in Chicago. Jonathan Bydlak is the president and founder of the Coalition to Reduce Spending. He is a political consultant in Washington, D.C.