Washington’s Budget Con Game

By:  Sheldon Richman
12/11/2012
       
Washington’s Budget Con Game

If the “fiscal cliff” controversy isn’t enough to convince you this government is one big fraud, what will it take? The budget mess was delivered to us by the same people who every step of the way claimed to be acting in our best interest. Let that sink in. Every president and every member of Congress assured us that their fiscal policies would produce prosperity and employment.

If the “fiscal cliff” controversy isn’t enough to convince you this government is one big fraud, what will it take? The budget mess was delivered to us by the same people who every step of the way claimed to be acting in our best interest. Let that sink in. Every president and every member of Congress assured us that their fiscal policies would produce prosperity and employment.

What did that bipartisan policy consist of? Spending and borrowing. Good political economists (especially those of the public choice school) warned us for decades that politicians face incentives that are inimical to the people’s best interests. Politicians who want to hold on to power have every inducement to promise to spend more money to benefit key constituencies. It is the rare politician who can get elected or reelected by promising to cut spending, unless it’s spending that benefits only people outside his or her state or district. (Even then, politicians will vote for spending in order to win support for their own projects — the practice known as logrolling.)

So spending rises in good times and bad. And how are the programs to be paid for? Politicians know better than to promise to raise taxes generally, because voters tend not to like that. President Obama has shown that you can get reelected if you promise to raise taxes on the wealthy. But there’s no mystery to be solved there. Of course lots of people are happy to see higher taxes — on someone else. Even some wealthy people will vote for a tax-raiser, anticipating that avoiding higher taxes is just a matter of asking the accountants to work a little harder.

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Sheldon Richman (photo)

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