At Ace of Spades H.Q., Ace responds to a recent Kevin Williamson post:
It is standard conservative theory that tax cuts and spending cuts go hand in hand. But after decades of ever-rising spending, coupled with occasional tax cuts, I’m not so certain of that any longer.
I believe it was after Reagan that Republican theorists began justifying his model of tax-cuts-now-spending-cuts-later as the “starve the beast” theory of limiting government — if we cut taxes, therefore cutting government’s resources, we should, logically, force the government to adapt itself to living with fewer taxpayer dollars. Ergo, spending should be forced down by the practicalities of the situation — either you start cutting spending, or else you start running up dangerous, Greece-level of debts.
The problem is that this country has always elected the “or else” part of this syllogism: We are racking up dangerous, Greece-levels of debts, and we’re barely even talking about that any longer.
The problem has grown so immense that we’ve decided to declare it officially a Non-Problem. (It will decide to re-assert itself as a Really Big Problem in a short period of time.)
So I no longer believe in the “starve the beast” theory, because the “starve the beast” theory relies upon Americans understanding the mid-to-longer term trajectory of their spending choices, which they plainly do not.
Since Americans are not capable of understanding the mid-to-longer term trajectory of their spending choices, it seems to me the only way to impose budget discipline and spending rollback is to offer Americans an immediate, as opposed to future, confrontation with reality: that is, if Americans wish to have so much government, they should be forced to pay for the level of government they are choosing, and not defer that payment (as they apparently will choose, every single time) into the future, to be imposed upon their children.
But, instead, they must be forced to reckon with the level of government they are choosing now by paying the full freight and cost of that government now.
That is to say: I believe that rolling back spending is only possible when Americans are made to feel the costs of the government they’re choosing, and that will only happen when they’re forced to actually pay for it.
The biggest hurdle, after the economic illiteracy of the voting public, is the starkly clear self-interest of the politicians: they can get re-elected only if they pander sufficiently to the voters. The voters, who do not understand how the government works (and refuse to believe it when you tell them) … want ever-more of it to benefit them as soon as possible. Telling the voters that you’ll not only not give them more but that you’ll be giving them significantly less is a great way to lose your next election (assuming you don’t get thrown out of office before that even comes up).