This was President Obama’s reply, during fiscal cliff negotiations, when House Speaker John Boehner declared, for the umpteenth time, that “ The U.S. has a spending problem.”
I can understand the president’s irritation. How could anyone believe that we have a “spending problem?’
Look around. Consider the state of our bridges, our roads and our crumbling inner city public schools. Are we spending too much on the nation’s infrastructure?
Next, think about unemployment. During this recovery we have lost 750,000 public sector jobs. Republicans are intent on “starving the beast” (of government) and as a result Washington has not given states the financial support they need continue delivering public services. Across the nation, public school teachers have been laid off in droves, while class sizes increase at unprecedented rates. Does this sound like government spending run amuck?
One in five American children now lives in poverty. Seventeen million children find themselves in homes where they can’t be sure of getting enough to eat. (a.k.a. “food-insecure households.”) At the end of the month, many kids go to bed hungry because the government Food Stamps program (now known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP) gives families less than $1.50 per person per meal. Are we being overly generous?
During the past two wars, we sent millions of American men and women to Iraq and Afghanistan –many went back for repeated tours. In some cases, their bodies were not broken–but their minds were. Now 1.3 million Vets seeking mental health services are told they must wait of 50 days before getting treatment. A recent government report suggests that 22 Vets die by suicide every day – about 20 percent of all Americans who kill themselves. Are we spending too much on healthcare for Veterans?
Let me suggest that we don’t have a spending problem. We have a revenue problem. Current federal revenue levels are at their lowest levels since the 1950s.
How Anti-Tax Pledges Have Weakened the Nation
In a recent post, Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, nailed it: “The tax system doesn’t raise enough revenue. And that’s not just the recession; it’s also tax policy and anti-tax pledges . . . The system has become less progressive, with the largest declines in effective tax rates at the top of the income scale.