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Why the GOP refuses to cut spending while cutting taxes

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Cut Spending

Kevin D. Williamson over at National Review made an important point about spending cuts and tax cuts. To sum it up with five of his words, “They could have done both.”

The Republicans are attempting to put together an aggressive tax cut package. From cutting the corporate tax nearly in half to dropping the number of brackets down to three or four, this is an ambitious plan that will likely score points for them in the midterm elections if they’re able to pass it. That’s not a guarantee at this point, but unless they cross some of the red lines drawn by the House Freedom Caucus or conservatives in the Senate, they’ll get it done. They have to. Failure on this front will demonstrate their complete impotence with full control of the legislative and executive branches in DC.

As a fiscally conservative American, I’m both rooting for this to pass and cringing over the fact that it probably will. I’m rooting for it because a cut is a cut. We’re overtaxed and any relief would be appreciated. I’m cringing over the possibility of it passing for three reasons:

  1. It’s still a bad progressive tax. We need tax reform, not just progressive tax cuts. Whether it’s a fair tax, neutral tax, flat tax, or any of a dozen other aggressive tax reform proposals, there are ways to get the nation out of this horribly convoluted system.
  2. No significant spending cuts. If ever there was a glaring reason for limited-government-minded people to ditch the GOP, their unwillingness to dramatically cut spending dramatically. They just passed a budget that’s bigger than all but one of the budgets passed in President Obama’s terms. The GOP needs to come out and admit they’re no longer the fiscally conservative party they continue to claim to be.
  3. The cuts aren’t as aggressive as they’re being billed. We’ll know more once the actual bill comes to light, but much of the buzz surrounding these cuts indicate we’re not really seeing an across-the-board set of tax breaks. They won’t guarantee that some middle-class Americans won’t actually end up paying more. They haven’t gone into detail about which business tax breaks they’re eliminating in favor of a lower standard rate. We have an opportunity to cut taxes so deeply that no American or business ends up paying more, but to do this we’d need the significant spending cuts I mentioned above. Instead, this is seeming more and more like a cut on paper that’s designed to be a win rather than real reform and substantial cuts that are intended to save everyone money.

With these three things in mind, let’s answer the main question: Why does the GOP refuse to cut spending while cutting taxes? The answer is simple.

Spending cuts allegedly lose elections

There’s a myth in DC that has been playing on repeat for over a century. It’s a myth that is readily acknowledged when Democrats meet. When Republicans meet, they only mention it in hushed tones so as not to blow their cover. The myth is this: if you cut spending, you’ll lose the next election.

Government programs are popular. Cutting them is not. Government agencies and departments employee many Americans. Cutting the budgets of these agencies and departments so they’re forced to let go of employees is not a popular move. Giving people something for nothing is an easy way to win votes. Forcing people to do things in order to receive their entitlements is an easy way to lose votes. These are the “facts” of life in Washington DC.

Here’s the problem. We can still call it all a myth because it’s never really been put to the test. Ronald Reagan was the last president to attempt to cut government but, despite the love that conservatives often shower on him, was really only able to slow the growth. Calvin Coolidge was arguably the last president to make net cuts in government during his tenure. Otherwise, every Congress and every President since the turn of the 20th century has utilized more programs, growing agencies, and expanding departments to “fix” America and “help” Americans.

Tax cuts are popular. Spending cuts are not… at least that’s what nearly every politician seems to think.

If the myth holds up, we will have a perpetually growing federal government. It’s already much bigger than the Constitution allows. How can we continue to let it grow? The answer to that question is also simply: we can’t. Unfortunately, too many Americans are stuck in the two-party mentality. Some anti-Republicans (also called Democrats) are actually opposed to expanding government but can’t support the GOP for other reasons. Most anti-Democrats (also called Republicans) are clearly opposed to expanding government but are unable to see past the “lesser of two evils” argument that falsely assumes the Republicans will grow government more slowly than the Democrats. The last 9 months of complete Republican control should debunk that notion.

Where does that leave us? If both major parties are too afraid of losing elections to make real spending cuts and limit government, what’s the solution? It comes down to breaking the two-party system. This is why I co-founded the Federalist Party in the first place. If both major parties refuse to limit DC, then someone needs to step up and replace them. They can’t be fixed from within. They must both lose their majorities before they’ll be willing to do the necessary cuts.

Christian, husband, father. EIC, NOQ Report. Co-Founder, the Federalist Party. Just a normal guy who will no longer sit around while the country heads in the wrong direction.

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