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August 5th, 2011

Unanimous Disagreement

Though Iowa’s entire congressional delegation voted against raising the debt ceiling, the differences between the two parties for doing so could not have been more pronounced and offers Iowans a clear choice between two opposing views of taxpayer money.

Congress approved legislation earlier this week that would immediately raise the debt ceiling by $2.5 trillion in exchange for $2.5 trillion in cuts…over the next ten years.  During this time frame, however, the federal government is expected to borrow an additional $10 trillion dollars, bringing our total national debt to approximately $24 trillion in 2021.

Though only 27% of the American people who identify themselves as Tea Party members support this alleged victory, 53% of the Congressional Tea Party Caucus opted to vote for party over principle.  Thankfully, all three Republican members of Iowa’s congressional delegation refused to go along because, as Senator Grassley put it, “the plan…delays meaningful spending reductions, fails to address entitlement spending in a way that will save the programs for future generations of retirees, and leaves open the possibility of tax increases.”

Though they haven’t always shown such dedication to fiscal responsibility before, it’s always better late than never.  Still, such new found dedication was sorely tested for Congressman Latham, who waited until the legislation had already received enough “yes” votes before he voted against it.  It makes one wonder what he would have done if his was the deciding vote between fiscal responsibility on the one hand and his friend Speaker Boehner and the rest of the Republican establishment on the other.

All four Democratic members of Iowa’s congressional delegation also voted against raising the debt ceiling, though not because it didn’t reduce spending far enough.  In fact, Senator Harkin doesn’t think we are spending enough money and that, “by shutting off [borrowed] Federal funding and investment – a critical engine sustaining our sputtering economy – [these cuts] could easily plunge America back into recession.”

Exactly right.  The solution is for everyone–whether individuals, businesses, or local, state, and federal governments—to spend money they don’t have to ”go shopping.”  In fact, living within one’s means actually stifles the economy because it reduces the demand for goods and services and, consequently, results in layoffs.  As a true Keynesian, therefore, Harkin no doubt is mimicking the federal government by making $174,000 as a senator but spending nearly twice that in order to stimulate the economy.  While ludicrous, the federal government, and by extension the American taxpayer, is doing exactly that.

Referring to those seeking a balanced budget as terrorists, Harkin explained his opposition to “this deal for the simple reason that I oppose paying ransom to hostage takers.”  Congressman Loebsack similarly chimed in, stating that the “full faith and credit of the United States should never have been held hostage by politicians in Washington.”  Ironic, given that they, too, voted against raising the debt ceiling unless their “ransom”  was met.

And what exactly are their demands?  Rather than seeking a balanced budget, they seek, in Harkin’s words, “a balanced approach to deficit reduction, including both spending cuts and [tax] increases.”  As Congressman Boswell put it, “there must be shared sacrifice when it comes to reducing the deficit.  We are all Americans, and we should all pitch in and pay our fair share.”

President Obama echoed similar thoughts recently, arguing that:  “I do not want, and I will not accept, a deal in which I am asked to do nothing, in fact, I’m able to keep hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional income that I don’t need, while a parent out there who is struggling to figure out how to send their kid to college suddenly finds that they’ve got a couple thousand dollars less in grants or student loans.”

Quite right.  No one should be able to keep hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional income that they don’t need.  It just isn’t fair.  Doubtless that’s why the 50 wealthiest lawmakers in Washington, whose worth in 2009 was almost $1.4 billion, will soon be giving that money to the federal government to prevent cuts in Medicaid or Pell grants.

Or why Tom Harkin, the 25th wealthiest member of Congress with a vacation home in the Bahamas, will be giving all but the bare minimum of his $10.5 million net worth to the Internal Revenue Service to save, in his words, “the Great Society and the social contract that is at its core.”

And why Congressmen Braley, with assets between $201,016 to $530,000, Loebsack, with assets between $228,017 to $770,000, and Boswell, with assets between $700,003 to $1,500,000, will eagerly join Senator Harkin in “shared sacrifice” to help that “parent out there who is struggling to figure out how to send their kid to college.”

Of course, back in the real world, they will do no such thing because, despite their redistributionist rhetoric, they’ve earned their money and have a right to do with it as they see fit.  Government has no right to take from them to give to somebody else, much less to tell them how much “additional income” they can do without.

But while they certainly don’t practice it, they do preach that budget deficits are not caused by the government spending too much money, but rather by people keeping more of their the government’s money than they need.  After all, as Senator Harkin reminds us, the Bush tax cuts have added “a whopping $800 billion to deficits,” which is “a very big reason why we need to raise the debt ceiling, today.”  (Actually, the Bush tax cuts for all income levels have “cost” the federal government $3 trillion since they were enacted.)

And, as Senator Durbin has recently argued, we need a national online sales tax because, without it, the government is losing $24 billion annually in lost revenue.  Lost revenue, simply because the government has yet to begin taxing something.  Everything, therefore, is lost revenue and adds to the deficit until the government begins to tax it or taxes it even more.

This is the vision the Democratic members of Iowa’s congressional delegation offer Iowans—that your money, much like an allowance, is actually the government’s money that it lets you have.  And because the unemployment rate continues to hover around 9% and the government borrows over 40 cents of every dollar it spends, the government is going to need some of it back.  But, as President Obama reminded us last year, we should be thankful for whatever generosity the government bestows on us.

This vision sounds vaguely familiar…”from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”


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About the Author

Nathan W. Tucker
Nathan W. Tucker is a Davenport attorney and author of We The People: The Only Cure to Judicial Activism. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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