Tax-cut time

William Murchison's picture

It’s jobs, jobs, jobs now for the Obama team, rather than healthcare, healthcare, healthcare. You have to call it progress, particularly if you’re jobless, or fearful of becoming so at a time when 17 million Americans are either non- or underemployed.

We’re about done, in other words, with the free-floating pretense that putting the federal government in charge of healthcare decisions somehow creates a lot of opportunity and employment.

There’s a problem, nonetheless: We’re not likely to get from the left, which numerically controls Congress and has its hooks in the White House, many inspirational ideas about the creation of private sector opportunity.

The left — or, as it’s known in today’s media, the “progressive” side of the street — doesn’t think in private sector categories. You could as soon call on Umar “Hot Seat” Abdulmutallab for advice on forest fire prevention as ask the ordinary Democratic congressman for ideas on expanding the economy.

The left has hardly a clue as to how jobs are created, apart from jobs that spring up when new government bureaus open or new government regulations require the hiring of people to figure out what Congress meant, and then to make sure it happens.

Currently, the country’s only steadily expanding area of endeavor seems to be government work. Just the other day, the Bureau of Labor Statistics — a government agency, of course — announced that members of government unions now outnumber the members of private sector unions: auto workers, truckers, carpenters, electricians and the like.

This isn’t to lament the decline of private sector unionism as much as it is to note the shrinkage of the private sector relative to the burgeoning of the public sector over this decade and the last.

The left prefers government activity to other kinds: the better to set terms, costs and objectives. The left, that is, likes control, as contrasted with the right, which prefers to wait and see what people can dream up on their own. The left doesn’t particularly encourage or even trust private dreaming, hence the emphasis on use of the tax code — a mechanism handed down from the top — to specify who needs what and why.

Accordingly, the left almost never wants to cut taxes. Usually, it wants to raise them. There’s little surprise in the White House rollout Monday of a new strategy for middle class “assistance” featuring new credits for child care, expanded credits for retirement savings, and ... well, that seems to be it in the tax department.

The president tells us it’s all about job creation — “the single most important thing we can do to rebuild the middle class.” Many will avert their eyes in preference to noticing the gap between goal and method.

The long and the short of it is, the left rejects serious tax cutting — which puts more money in earners’ hands — because it doesn’t believe earners will spend their windfalls in the right way. Not without the government telling them how. That means, basically, why cut the government’s tax take at all?

Just now, with markets fretful over what’s coming from the White House — whose attacks on bankers haven’t reinforced optimism for the future — the president and his helpers apparently plan nothing meaningful from a free market standpoint.

Cut business taxes? Nothing likely would give businessmen greater incentive to hire and invest. It can’t be done, though. It would violate liberal orthodoxy to cut taxes and reduce government in some sense to the role of economic bench warmer.

The left might whine about how we can’t cut taxes due to the deficit, but the right could riposte: think of the money we’ll save by burying once and for all Congress’ trillion-dollar plan for government healthcare.

In other words, it depends on what you really want — government control and sputtering recovery, or marketplace incentives and growth of the sort that occurs only when government steps back a pace. The left, stuck in government-control mode, likely won’t be of vast help as the economic recovery debate takes off. Time for serious tax-cutters — again — to show what’s really what.

[William Murchison is the author of “Mortal Follies: Episcopalians and the Crisis of Mainline Christianity.”] COPYRIGHT 2010 CREATORS.COM