Sunday, February 8, 2009

Free Mexican Food

We tax all the others and pass the revenue on to you

We once asked our college freshman daughter to join us for dinner. Her reply: "Oh boy, free Mexican food!" No, darlin' daughter, there's no free Mexican food. A $35 dinner bill is one thing, a tril bailout is quite another. It's free Mexican food today that you have to pay for forever.

Refundible tax credits sound pretty benign, like something any of us might benefit from. Not quite. It's the problem that lies at the heart of using taxes to shape social policy. Are taxes about government revenue or are they about "fairness" as the prez told us during his campaign? If the former, shouldn't tax policy feature revenue-enhancing components? If the latter, is fairness merely a subjective concept momentarily defined by the party in power?

Does Congress lack the honesty to tell us that they're redistributing income via tax credits for people who don't pay taxes? Yes, policies like that already exist but they're getting way out of hand. That's what CharlieR was talking about when he said “From the tax point of view I think we’ve done a great job”. He wasn't talking about taxes, he was talking about Free Mexican Food. Charlie is OK with taxing us to chase votes because... (drum roll please) he doesn't pay all his own taxes. Kind of like Congressman Wm. Jefferson complaining about the hell of being investigated AFTER the feds found $90 large in marked money in his freezer. C'mon, guys.

Does it feel like Congress wants to take more of your money for no other reason than they've identified voters who are unfairly burdened by not having your money? And does that feel kinda weird? It's not just your money, they're taking money from all your heirs... maybe forever. How long do you think it takes to repay, say, 2 tril? Maybe 3 tril? Pay up, heirs.

If Congress was a good steward of our money it might all go down a little easier. Maybe we could pretend that the administration's tax scandals are not definitve of our circumstances. But now it seems like they just overpaid by some $78 billion for TARP assets in the first bailout. $78 BILLION! Isn't that 22% of the first $350B, wasted? Remember the outrage when the first year of the Iraq war was going to cost $70 billion? For or against the war, at least the $70B paid for something. The $78B got us nothing but a snicker from the folks who knew we were overpaying but kept their hands out anyway, and they still have them out.

There's no free Mexican food. Somebody always gets stuck with the check. Can you look your kids in the eye and tell them it's going to be... them? Poor them.

This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer. -- Will Rogers

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