“You can observe a lot just by watching” – Yogi Berra
Earlier this week, Democrat congressman Steny Hoyer from MD (Democratic Whip, 2nd ranking member behind Nancy Pelosi) was asked in an interview if this country has a “spending problem”. Hoyer’s response:
Does the country have a spending problem? The country has a paying-for problem. We haven’t paid for what we bought. We haven’t paid for the tax cuts, we haven’t paid for the wars…
At the simplest level, this is the very definition of a spending problem. If you bring home $900 a week and spend $700 a week you do not have a spending problem. But if you bring home $600 and spend $700 you do. You can only have a spending problem if you cannot pay for the things you’re buying. It’s a tautology.
While I love applying simple household analogies to the government, because it makes the absurdity so obvious, the weekly income analogy doesn’t actually quite hold here. If you spend more than you make you have two options – spend less or make more. This doesn’t actually hold with the government though. There is no need to discuss “making more”. First, the government doesn’t produce anything [insert joke here] it appropriates the production of others. Second, it already appropriates all it needs to pay the bills, because appropriation happens either directly through taxation, or indirectly through printing money and implicitly taxing the savings of the people. The government actually doesn’t need to take in any more money to pay the bills … have we missed a bill yet?
So, we don’t have a spending problem, because we have shown we have no problem spending like crazy. Further, we don’t have a paying-for problem, because we have never missed a bill. What is the problem again?
As we’ve discussed a number of times in the past, the true measure of the government’s burden on the people is spending, not taxes, for exactly the reason discussed above. The government pays for its spending by direct taxes or indirect taxes; either way the government appropriates our production for itself to pay for spending. The only measure of how much the government burdens the people then is spending.
So yes, congressman Hoyer, we have a spending problem. The people are over-burdened with flippant spending decisions that you have made. The payoffs, kickbacks, bribes, goodies-to-political-cronies, goodies-to-political-supporters, goodies-to-preferred-classes have all become too much for us, the working people, to bear. We will eventually, and perhaps soon, collapse under the weight of it all. There is a burden problem – the burden is too great. Thus, there is a spending problem. The spending (and promised spending) are too great.
But Kudos to Steny Hoyer for trying anything he can to change the debate from the obvious spending problem. I mean, if you’re caught right there on national TV and someone asks you about the affair you’re having or the bloody knife in your hand, you have to come up with something, right? The only other options are to admit to being a criminal (not likely) or to not go on TV (also not likely).
Not to worry though, Hoyer doesn’t have a talking problem – he has being asked difficult questions problem.