“If I Were King for a Day” an essay by Pat Slattery

Posted on December 29, 2012

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Today’s Guest Saturday post comes to us from Pat Slattery of The Free Market Project blog. Pat engages in a fantasy that many of us have taken. He originally published this essay on  December 15, 2012.

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If I Were King for a Day

I have a suggestion that may help people understand Washington. I propose the following bill: When talking about anything to do with taxes, politicians should only be able to talk about one year. And, they must always mention the one year deficit number to identify the impact.

Here’s why this is an issue: The American people are generally stupid, especially regarding economics, and even when it comes to math. When Obama talks about raising revenue by $1.6 or $1.4 trillion dollars, most people don’t understand that he’s talking about ten years. It’s only $160 billion or $140 billion each year, which is nowhere near enough to close the deficit. But if people, being ignorant, hear the number $1.6 trillion, they think to themselves, “Hey, the deficit is about that big… nice!” We can forget trying to explain that Obama is using a static analysis when he says his tax hikes will result in $1.4 trillion. He doesn’t count tax avoidance or any adjustment made by the people most able to make adjustments. But that’s too complicated.

The conversation has to be simple and understandable. Our deficit is $1.3 trillion (top of my head… but I think that’s close). If Obama gets his tax increase, the deficit will decline to $1.14 trillion. NOW it’s pretty obvious that taxing the rich isn’t going to make much of an impact. At that point you can make the argument that the reduced economic activity that occurs when such a tax is levied is not really worth it. Further, you can make the point that the problem is not on the revenue side of the ledger, but the spending side.

The other thing, of course, I would mandate, should I suddenly become king for a day, is that Washington politicians call spending “spending” and not ever “investment.” All spending must be referred to as follows “Washington spent your tax dollars on …..” Or, “Taxpayer money was spent on ….” There is no such thing as “government money” or “federal dollars.” It’s all taxpayer money. That has to be clear.

One more, while I’m at it, and still king. Budget “cuts” can not be referred to as “cuts” unless they actually mean that you are spending LESS next year than you spent this year. A “reduction in growth” is not a cut. Spending less than some mythical projection is not a “cut.” The only thing that is a “cut” is “less next year than we spent this year.”

So there you have it. A simple plan that would at least make the conversation real. I believe a big part of the problem is that Washington politicians speak a code language that most people don’t understand and that it is designed specifically to obfuscate the reality of what they are doing. That has to stop.