Bush Tax Cuts Aim to Defund US Government

Thomas Frank remarked on Public Radio's Marketplace last week:

"The reason the administration wants to do away with dividend, estate and other taxes is to de-fund the government: to pull the rug out from under the New Deal social order once and for all," says Frank. The goal is not to jump-start consumer spending, he says, but to "throw a wrench into the works of this despised institution."

I've long suspected the same thing myself. You may recall that I posted excerpts from former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill's interview with Jim Lehrer suggesting the real motivation for Republican tax cuts.

Not much has been made of this in the press and what little attention there has been tends to focus on the fact that the cuts almost exclusively benefit the wealthy. That doesn't seem to bother the average American too much. As unbelievable as it sounds, that's not even the worst of it. A few bloggers picked up on the story and the long-term implications of Bush's third round of cuts.

You don't have to read too far between the lines to realize that what is happening here is a fundamental restructuring of the federal government so that it is incapable of providing for the middle and lower classes or effectively policing itself against the abuse of industry. As devastating, it will exacerbate the already alarming divide between the rich and poor which today leaves us a divided nation of haves and have-nots. We are the richest nation on Earth, if not the richest nation in history and yet we have a health care system that fails over 20 million of our citizens, an education system that is partially funded by state-sponsored gambling, over 1.35 million of our children living on the street, one out of every 147 residents housed in prisons, a minimum wage so low that working full-time still lands you below the poverty line, and the largest, most destructive military ever assembled.

Another blogger quotes Bill Clinton, who had these sage words about Bush's tax cuts:
"The real reason for the tax cuts and their particular design in 2001 and 2003 was ideological, almost theological, the notion that we're all just put upon by this onerous government of ours taking our hard earned money away and that there's no such thing as a bad tax cut and no such thing as a good spending program unless it lays concrete or builds a missile. These tax cuts are too small in the short run to do any good and way too big in the long run to avoid serious harm."

This blogger dishes a juicy quote from Frank's piece in Harper's:
One of the reasons the Bush people love tax cuts is that tax cuts defund government - but gradually and indirectly, allowing plenty of time for blame evasion later. Although it may not look like much now, this tax cut is a time bomb planted in the heart of activist government: as it grows, the whopping giveaway to the rich will compel massive cuts in government spending somewhere down the road. Imagine as all the deficit-reduction battles of the early nineties are fought all over again, only with much greater stakes. Imagine the look of dawning desperation on those politicians' faces as they begin to understand Bush's masterful fait accompli. Like the U.N. delegates Bush has similarly outmaneuvered, they will vote and speechify in vain. The public will laugh at their impotence. And then will come the moment of hard truth. On whom will death set his fateful hand? Who will be defunded?" (38).

It might sound mildly hysterical or overly dramatic to say this, but assuming that nothing is done to reverse the conservative anti-tax tide, the United States in 2023 will be unrecognizable from the country as it exists today. Ultimately, I suppose that we get the government that we deserve, and in this case, that may not be much.