and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column

Lions and tigers and bears! Oh my!
And don't forget the liberals and neo-cons
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Friday, March 6, 2009

"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."
Dorothy, to her little dog in "The Wizard of Oz"

Thinking green as we look forward to St. Patrick's Day. But instead of an emerald isle, I keep seeing an Emerald City.

It's tempting to overdo the Oz analogy, with President Barack Obama as the illusory Wizard and his majority voters as the brain-challenged scarecrow, but I'll let it go for now.

How did we get here? A year ago, our nation's primary fiscal concern was the coming "entitlement crisis," as more and more boomers become eligible for the unfunded entitlements of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The National Taxpayers Union sent me an information packet containing warnings from opposite sides of the political spectrum, the Heritage Foundation and the Brookings Institution.

They warned that the "Social Security Trust Fund" cannot be trusted after 2017, and that Medicare will begin running a deficit in 2010. The conservative Heritage Foundation writes in its March 2008 "Backgrounder" report that by 2050, to cover these programs and Medicaid, "Congress would need to raise taxes permanently by the equivalent of $12,072 per household or eliminate every other federal program."

The conservatives acknowledge that we can neither "grow our way out" nor eliminate enough waste to solve the debt problem. The liberals acknowledge that raising taxes is not the solution: "Taxes would have to be raised continuously and would eventually cripple the economy."

They both warn that "neither the government nor the public is facing up to the hard choices that have to be made if the country is to continue to prosper and meet its obligations at home and abroad."

Well, that was then and this is now. No one faced up to any hard choices during 2008 and concerns about the Big Three entitlement programs seem almost quaint today.

The National Taxpayers Union has been fighting to control deficits for as long as I can remember; it was joined by the Concord Coalition in 1992. Despite their best efforts, the national debt is presently $10.9 trillion before the impact of the Bush and Obama bailouts and stimulus packages, before the new $3.6 trillion Obama budget, before the many unfunded government liabilities must be funded.

How did we get here? When I ask the question, Republicans usually go back to FDR or Lyndon Johnson's Great Society, with a little break in momentum from Ronald Reagan. Democrats note the reduction of the deficit by Bill Clinton. Republicans counter that this was the result of reduced defense spending between the Cold War and the new War on Terrorism.

All of this is part of the answer, but I also think about the argument that "deficits don't matter," which came originally from the Keynesian left, but was most recently stated by Vice President Dick Cheney as the Bush debt accumulated. This phrase also seems to have been a policy of people called neo-conservatives, whom Pat Buchanan defines as "Big Government Conservatives," who support interventionist foreign policy, increased social spending, and illegal immigration no matter how these affect the national debt. Clearly, this policy is oxymoronic as well as moronic in general.

My political partners Chip Ford and Chip Faulkner look back to the failure of the 1994 Gingrich Revolution, when Republican activists gained control of Congress, and the opportunity to downsize government was seized, then dropped.

Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, who helped engineer this revolution, fights on: He has expanded his "Leave us alone" center-right coalition to urge major spending reforms.

In 2000, Republicans took control of the presidency, House and Senate. Some of us eagerly (naively?) awaited the initiation of longtime Republican goals a balanced budget constitutional amendment, the flat tax, school choice, a supermajority required for tax increases, sunsetting of government programs, and my personal favorite, the elimination of income-tax withholding. Alas, these goals were apparently more fun when they were unattainable.

The Democrats, of course, were no help at all in creating fiscal responsibility.

Granted, we were all distracted by 9/11 and the War on Terror, but certainly it is harder to defend a nation that is deeply in debt, much of it owed to foreign countries.

How did we get here? Chip Ford thinks it is a longstanding organized conspiracy to make Americans part of a New World Order, in which freedom is sacrificed for the elitist domination of something called the Liberal Agenda. He sees the neo-cons as part of that conspiracy.

I know there is a Liberal Agenda, which I've been fighting my entire adult life. But I've seen it mostly as an annoying bunch of foolish dreamers and greedy Big Government/Big Business/Big Labor leaders, none of whom worry about the long-term effects of their demands or the law of unintended consequences. Reform liberals, like "old conservatives" who are deficit hawks, are not part of this Agenda.

But we must be aware that there are dangerous people who want power for the sake of power, who don't want to "leave us alone," and who are getting more traction from the current economic meltdown. We need to find our brains, our heart, our courage, and resist.

The comments made and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle Tribune newspapers; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Lowell Sun, Providence (RI) Journal and other newspapers.