In the "fiscal cliff" debate, most talk is about taxes. But arguing about tax rates misses the point. As I say in this week's column:
Ludicrous, irresponsible spending is why we're in trouble. As columnist Ron Hart points out, Bill Clinton's balanced budget spent $1.7 trillion. "Adjusted for inflation," he writes, "our federal government would (have) a $200 billion surplus. But instead of increasing government spending in line with normal inflation, under Bush and Obama we are spending $3.8 trillion today. Democrats, who believe we have a ‘revenue' problem instead of a 'spending' problem, must also think they have a bartender problem, not a drinking problem."
This is what my book No, They Can't is about.
The government is too big, does too much, and doesn't make life better. We should cut spending. I doubt that we will.
If Republicans and Democrats reach a deal, the tax increases will be real -- but spending "cuts" probably illusions. If they actually happen, they will only be reductions in already planned increases. The Wall Street Journal notes that when the two parties talk about cutting spending by $4 trillion over a decade, "those numbers have no real meaning because they are conjured in the wilderness of mirrors that is the federal budget process. Since 1974, Capitol Hill's ‘baseline' has automatically increased spending every year according to Congressional Budget Office projections ... . Tax and spending changes are then measured off that inflated baseline."
The rest of my column here.