Extravagant children’s birthday parties are the latest examples of unchecked irrationality. Accordingly, my wife and I embraced a more prudent approach to our son’s upcoming party: give him a budget and help him plan. Suddenly, the discussion moves from “I want that $50 cake!” to “That $50 cake means I can only invite 2 buddies? Forget the cake-let’s have ice cream and invite 8 more people!”
I cite this example because it illustrates the most fundamental principle in financial management. So simple that even a child can understand: spending should be in accordance with available capital. Yet despite it obvious simplicity, this concept mysteriously alludes government.
Rather than make the tough, disciplined decisions to keep spending in line with its budgets, the government instead finds more ways to tax to compensate for any shortfalls.
This behavior is anathema to fiscal discipline and responsible leadership. As the great George Will recently said (and I paraphrase) “good leadership is oftentimes not choosing what to do but choosing what NOT to do.”
Will was referencing the reckless budget recently advanced by the Obama administraton. Rather than responsibly focusing efforts to address the economic downturn, Obama and his ilk choose instead to tackle all key Democrat initiatives for the last 25 years at once. No money? No bother, let’s embark on providing universal healthcare for all, tackling global warming, and overhauling education anyway! In other words, the largest expansion of government since the 30’s with no money to pay for it. So how should we do it? You guessed it! Let’s tax more! Because what better time to increase the burden of hard-working Americans than during an economic downturn. Nothing motivates the seeking of prosperity than to penalize the accomplishment thereof.
Which brings me to my overall point: the founding fathers never intended for the citizens to be overly taxed to fund an overreaching central government. In fact, this is precisely what they sought to avoid. Throughout the Constitution, it is strikingly clear that avoiding an overly powerful central government was to be sought at all costs. This is clearly denoted in the Tenth Amendment. Why? Because an overly powerful central government invites the tyranny and corruption that jeopardizes the very liberties for which our country was founded.
But these liberties require personal responsibility. They are not earned by transferring our duties to the an inefficient government. Milton Friedman described government spending in this way in 2004:
“Finally, I can spend somebody else’s money on somebody else. And if I spend somebody else’s money on somebody else, I’m not concerned about how much it is, and I’m not concerned about what I get. And that’s government.”
Furthermore, if we turn over the most personal of our responsibilities as this budget invites: our healthcare, care for our children, our retirement, we in turn relinquish our freedom. Because now who’s in control? Now who’s independent?
The far-reaching entitlement efforts dominating this administration’s most recent budget are inherently specious. Despite the good feeling they trigger in some people, they are irresponsible and violate the core principles of our founding fathers. Because just like that $50 cake, these services are not free and the cost is borne by citizens through this litany of taxes.
While some level of taxation is essential to operate a government, the framers’ intent was explicit that it should be as limited as possible. And energetically increasing taxation to subsidize programs that ultimately make us less free and less safe is in direct conflict with what makes this country strong.
So my advice to those continuing to advance the efforts of unbridled taxation to fund these programs? Let them eat cake. But on their own dime.
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