Don’t Be Taken In by the Deficit Commission

November 11, 2010

If preliminary rumblings from the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform’s upcoming report are accurate, I’m afraid the conservative agenda — though overwhelmingly victorious in last week’s elections — might be against the ropes again, especially with GOP congressmen praising the report.

Our astronomical deficits are the result not of low taxes, but of profligate spending. So why do we accept the premise that the starting point for deficit and debt reduction discussions must be various tax hikes, tolerating unacceptably high levels of spending, and seeming to take off the table the eradication of programs the government was never intended or constitutionally authorized to establish in the first place?

The deficit commission appears to have adopted the flawed notion that taxes and revenues are a zero-sum game — that tax increases produce higher revenues, when more often the opposite is true. For example, does anyone doubt that the commission’s proposal to eliminate the mortgage interest deduction would detrimentally impact the housing (and possibly financial) market?

Equally important, how can this commission be taken seriously if it sanctions Obamacare, which not only is wildly unpopular with the American people but also greatly burdens the federal fiscal equation?

Many are praising the commission’s “boldness” in proposing to reduce the growth of the federal deficit by $3.8 trillion by 2020 from its projected growth of $7.7 trillion. That’s like an alcoholic promising to cut down his liquor consumption from two bottles of bourbon a day to one. Obama, who initiated (and stacked) this commission as an Alinskyite strategy to turn the tables on Republicans on the spending issue, must be laughing all the way to the statist bank.

Do you realize that just three years ago — 2007 — our federal budget deficit was just $161 billion? So why are we congratulating ourselves as prudent stewards of our grandchildren’s money for planning half-trillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see? Besides, no one can honestly believe these reduction projections are realistic. One thing you can bank on is that government-spending projections are always understated.

Without doubt, there will be the inevitable upward pressure on deficits and debt from the increased interest on the debt as a result of Obama’s reckless spending orgy. But that’s hardly the only explanation for the nearly exponential increases in the projected growth of the deficit.

If we are going to be serious about tackling this fiscal crisis, which threatens the long-term survival of the republic, at some point we’re going to have to have a debate on the ever-expanding dependency cycle to which we’ve addicted ourselves. If the elections told us anything, it was that people want this nation to radically reverse its current fiscal course. Nibbling around the edges is neither what the people have demanded nor what will alleviate our problems.

Those who think Obama is completely incompetent ought to reconsider. The one thing he’s not incompetent at is getting his way — shoving his agenda down our throats. There was a method to Obama’s madness in shoving Obamacare through, folding new spending programs into his “stimulus” bill that will persist in perpetuity, and otherwise reversing welfare reform en route to re-expanding the welfare state. He knew that no matter how much the public objected, it would be very hard to roll back his new initiatives once in place and that he would be establishing a new set point from which any debate on spending and taxes would have to begin.

We don’t have to accept this state of affairs as the inevitable status quo, and we shouldn’t give too much credence to a deficit commission that accepts, apparently without much question, that Obamacare is here to stay. Nor should we casually swallow the commission’s implied message that we will be fiscal heroes if we merely aspire to roll back federal spending to 22 percent — and later 21 percent — of gross domestic product. A few short years ago, such spending levels would have been met with uniform horror by all but the most brainwashed Marxists. As Steve Manacek wrote at, such excessive spending levels have been relatively rare in our history. Yet we now have a commission whose charter purpose is to reduce the deficit advocating these levels as just a starting point? Can you imagine what the ending point would be?

Sanguine reactions to the commission’s tax-related solutions are equally suspect. It recommends capping revenues at 21 percent of GDP, as if that is Grover Norquist’s dream. But Manacek points out that federal revenues have never reached 21 percent of GDP, so there is nothing comforting here for those who recognize excessive taxes as enemies of freedom and economic growth.

It’s not that there aren’t attractive features in the preliminary commission reports. But to paraphrase Obama, conservatives just “won,” and they mustn’t accede to Obama’s misguided approach to deficit reduction.