Editor’s Note: Making Our Children Pay

July, 2010

People love to blame politicians for the problems our country faces. “They’re all crooks” and “Throw them out” are the most common solutions in casual political conversations between friends and neighbors.

The problem is that, Republican or Democrat, all of us voters are really the ones to blame. That’s because generally we:

• Hate to pay taxes;
• Love government’s largesse when it benefits us;
• Did poorly on math in school.

The last part is crucial, because most people have a naïve understanding of how much it costs to create a strong military, care for old, sick people, and build highways. Cutting the waste and inefficiencies of government is certainly important — and we’ve advocated that repeatedly in the pages of Hawaii Business — but it won’t come close to paying for all the benefits we get or want from Washington, the state Capitol or our counties. Sadly, we have to make real cuts in services or pay more to make government budgets balance.

The state and county governments are required to balance their budgets, but the federal government isn’t bound to that rule. Deficit spending is a great tool to spur us out of a recession. The problem is we allowed deficits in good times and bad through every combination of Democratic and Republican control of the White House and Congress since the late 1950s, with the exception of 1998-2001.

Every time we get a tax cut that is not paid with equivalent cuts in spending, we are actually taxing our children. We are too greedy to pay for what we want, so our children will get the bill. Shame on our politicians, but more shame on all of us for re-electing them and making unreasonable demands of them.

I have followed the rise of the Tea Party with interest. I find it curious that so many of these advocates of lower taxes and smaller government collect Social Security and Medicare benefits. “I paid for them,” is the common response. No, you didn’t, and that’s a huge part of our problem. People are living much longer than their grandparents, so current retirees will collect far more in both Social Security and Medicare benefits than they paid in.

My study of the federal budget indicates that Americans will have to endure major tax increases and painful cuts in spending to balance it. We will all have to pay that price for a long time.

Last week, my 12-year-old daughter checked the national debt calculator online and found it had grown immensely since the previous time she checked. “It’s $13 trillion! Last time I looked it was only $12 trillion.” She did not look at me with accusation in her eyes, but she certainly had every right to.

 

Think You Can Balance the Budget?

Try our state budget calculator at balancehawaiibudget.com. You will start with the deficit that state legislators faced this spring. Cut spending and/or add revenue to balance the budget. When you are done, you can send your budget proposal to a member of the House Finance Committee or to a friend.

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Author:

Steve Petranik