CONTRIBUTORS

Entitlements, not millionaires should be target

Posted Oct. 09, 2011, at 11:35 a.m.

“It’s time for the rich to start paying their fair share.”

That was Rep. Chellie Pingree’s triumphal response to President Obama’s call for a new stimulus package with substantial tax increases on the wealthiest Americans. Not surprisingly, the Bangor Daily News chimed in editorially (Sept. 18) with a call for quick passage of the legislation.

Many of the bill’s most ardent supporters claim that higher taxes on the rich will help alleviate the debt crisis and maintain public services. Make the rich pay their fair share, and we won’t have to cut entitlement spending. But the progressives who make this argument can’t back it up with any hard numbers.

Here’s a hard number for Rep. Pingree and her colleagues to digest: allowing the Bush-era tax rates to expire for the top bracket will generate about $80 billion the first year. The problem is, right now we’re borrowing over $4 billion a day. Do the math: Making the rich pay more won’t even cover three weeks of Obama deficit spending.

Here’s the bottom line — there just aren’t enough rich people to pay the government’s bills, even if you confiscate every dime of income from every millionaire and billionaire in the country. If we give Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Barack Obama all the tax increases they are demanding, it won’t cover one tenth of the annual deficit of $1.6 trillion. We would still have to borrow well over $100 billion a month to pay for current spending.

With the federal government borrowing 43 cents of every dollar it spends this year, the only path to solvency is serious reform of the entitlement programs that are relentlessly ratcheting up the deficit. But instead of offering a reform plan, Democrats have resorted to shameless demagoguery, including an Internet ad showing Republicans shoving a wheelchair-bound granny off a cliff.

For a glimpse of where we’re headed if the Democrats get their way, just look across the pond.

For years, American progressives have lectured about the superiority of the European model of generous welfare programs, open-door immigration, long paid vacations, extended unemployment benefits, early retirement and “free” health care. Today, with Europe in a slow-motion financial collapse, those progressive chickens have come home to roost on the streets of London, Athens and Madrid.

Government workers in Greece rioted last year when Parliament proposed raising the retirement age from 58 to 63. Greek civil servant pay has increased 30 percent since 2006. They receive 14 monthly paychecks per year when they’re working, and 14 a year after they retire.

We’re on the same path to chaos and insolvency as the social democracies of Western Europe. But instead of applying the brakes or changing course, Obama and the Democrats want to mash down on the accelerator in our rush to bankruptcy and economic collapse.

Obama’s first trillion-dollar stimulus was the biggest spending and borrowing bill in American history. In the year after passage, the private sector lost 2.5 million jobs, but the federal government added 416,000. That’s what liberal intellectuals call a jobs bill. They complain now that it wasn’t nearly big enough, so the president has proposed another half-trillion of stimulus.

Government spending now consumes 44 percent of U.S. gross domestic product. Ten years ago it was 34 percent. In Europe the average is 50 percent and rising. If we continue down this path, we’re headed for a European-style economic and financial meltdown.

Vaclav Klaus, president of the Czech Republic, recently warned about the perils of following Europe’s lead, “Europeans today prefer leisure to performance, security to risk-taking, paternalism to free markets, collectivism and group entitlements to individualism. … The critical situation in Europe today is visible to everybody. It is not possible to hide it. … So maybe Europe’s crisis today will at least help you in America turn back toward freedom.”

The prospects for turning back from the abyss are bright. Voters have sobered up since the election of Barack Obama. Last November witnessed the biggest turnover in Congress since 1928 in an election that was a referendum on the direction of the country under Obama’s leadership.

In 14 months, we will go to the polls again. Make no mistake, the outcome may determine whether or not our children and grandchildren will enjoy the blessings of liberty that we have taken for granted for too long.

Larry Lockman of Amherst is a self-employed community organizer who has conducted legislative research in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District for the past 20 years. His email is smallbizrep@rivah.net.

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