A.J. DiCintio
January 5, 2013
Turning a fiscal lemon into lemonade
By A.J. DiCintio

Disgusted with the "fiscal cliff" compromise, Representative Louie Gohmert (R-TX), according to the AP, said this: "I'm embarrassed for this generation. Future generations deserve better."

Unlike the typical politician, Gohmert spoke the truth morally and empirically; for only a member of the church whose false and lying gods direct believers to enrich themselves at the expense of their progeny could fail to acknowledge spending and debt realities that make the compromise a sickeningly perverse fiscal lemon.

Yet it's not necessarily true that passage of the compromise bill constitutes, as Charles Krauthammer put it, a "complete rout" of Republicans by their Democratic opponents.

After all, as Representative Rich Nugent, R-FL observed (AP), with the tax-the-rich issue now "off the table," Republicans are in position to "move on to a focus on curbing spending."

Therefore, the most important question facing the Republican Party is this:

How does it get the middle class on its side regarding the root cause of fiscal woes afflicting not just the US but virtually every other Western democracy?

Making that task all the more difficult is this truth:

It's not your father's middle class but a dejected, angry, frightened, smaller one suffering from a decades-long descent into a maelstrom that has whirled its wages in stagnant circles and its wealth ever downward, realities, human nature tells us, certain to make a good number of its members susceptible to the wiles of power loving, free lunch promising political con artists.

Therefore, to be successful in winning over Middle America, Republicans must first admit the failure of the "starve the beast" fiscal policy to which they have adhered since the eighties, in practice a half measure that cut revenues while permitting spending and debt to run rampant.

For proof of that failure, consider these statistics:

During the Reagan years, the national debt rose by $1.7 trillion or 186% while GDP increased just 67%.

During Bush's two terms, debt rose by $3.5 trillion or 61% while GDP increased only 30%.

As those data show, far from being starved during the past three decades, the beast has feasted, albeit on borrowed money that currently has the nation's debt/GDP ratio at a point which, history teaches, dooms a nation to economic decline.

However, despite their complicity in creating the nation's fiscal mess, post-fiscal-cliff-compromise Republicans can gain public support for bringing the beast under control by becoming the party that at every turn gives voice to the principle, "If you want it, pay for it."

For instance, one of Obamacare's multitude of taxes hits firms that manufacture medical equipment with a 2.3% hit on gross sales, thereby requiring companies to pay the tax even if they have no profit.

As reported by Grace-Marie Turner at forbes.com, "many firms say [the] tax. . .will soak up virtually all of their research budgets," causing a number of very good job producing companies in an industry that employs more than 400,000 people "to relocate abroad."

No wonder, then, that 18 Democratic Senators recently called for a delay in implementing the tax.

However, as they ought to do with respect to every last cent needed to pay for Obamacare as well as every other spending project supported by the president and his allies, Republicans, knowing that the middle class is the big bull's eye on the tax target, should respond to those Senators by calmly asking them what alternative tax they favor and on whom.

In every instance, this response to spending must be done in accordance with sound educational principles that demand (1) clear, simple language (2) a statement capturing the moral imperative of paying for what one wants, for example, "Are you actually saying you don't want to pay the cost of your healthcare plan but would rather push it on our children and grandchildren?" (3) effective, dedicated repetition of the response to the public, the only certain way it will truly learn the "lesson" intended.

As even apolitical citizens can see, it is highly likely a specific Republican focus on paying the bill for one's desires (as opposed to pronouncing general theories about taxes and spending) will mobilize the public against spending; for though Democrats don't like to talk about it, one of the most powerful effects of the slow decline of the middle class has been the quite natural evolution of anti-tax fervor among cash-strapped middle American families.

In support of that assertion, it is necessary only to invoke what happened to George H.W. Bush in '92 as a result of his '90 tax promise reversal and Bill Clinton and fellow Dems in '94 as a consequence of the politics-as-usual tax hike they rammed through Congress in '93.

In addition to stopping the Spending and Debt Train whose inevitable destination is Greece, putting the spotlight on the tax aspect of government spending stands a very good chance of causing a rift between Democrats and many of their fiscally concerned supporters, Warren Buffett, for instance.

That's the same Warren Buffett whose worry about the nation's unsustainable spending and debt curve prompted him to call (NYT) for cutting the federal government's slice of the GDP pie to 21% from its 24% level of 2013, a fiscal example of "portion control" Obama and other Dem big shots would denounce as unhealthful, callous, and, of course, racist even if the Almighty were to appear in the skies over America supporting it with divine calculations and divine enthusiasm.

Of course, the tactic suggested here requires its proponents to, as they say, walk the walk.

That's why it is essential Republicans also support fair, fiscally sound, innovative policies with respect to the country's tax regimen, regulatory system, and military/foreign policy regime, policies that put the good of the American people first, not the good of powerful special interests or messianic Pollyannas devoted to the morally and intellectually vacuous ideology that promises a New World Order through nation building.

Turning the economic lemon that produced the "fiscal cliff" to the lemonade of sound economic prosperity won't be easy; but any GOP leader who doesn't have the Lincolnian spine for the job might get some by considering that Reality has bitten Europe's profligately spending, irresponsibly borrowing nanny states so hard they'll be paying the piper for a generation, the resulting pain made all the more excruciating by the fact that one of their major exports becomes their best and brightest youth.

© A.J. DiCintio

 

The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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A.J. DiCintio

A.J. DiCintio posts regularly at RenewAmerica and YourNews.com. He first exercised his polemical skills arguing with friends on the street corners of the working class neighborhood where he grew up. Retired from teaching, he now applies those skills, somewhat honed and polished by experience, to social/political affairs.

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