Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.
what we might charitably describe as an uncertain record over the
last three and a half years, the Bush administration is now supporting
an idea that could reduce federal spending, the budget deficit,
and the national debt, and maybe even encourage a taxpayer revolt.
idea, announced by President Bush at the Republican National Convention,
is the "debt check-off." We could check a box on our tax form to
allocate 10% of our tax payment to lowering the national debt, without
increasing our taxes.
reducing the debt 1.2 % a year, the checkoff would not exactly slay
the $4 trillion monster, but it's a start.
Bush wants to exempt some budget categories from cuts. Social Security,
interest on the national debt, and deposit insurance. Social Security,
our biggest welfare program, must be off limits, we're told, even
though the elderly are, as a group, the richest Americans.
on the debt cannot be cut because that would mean a partial default
on U.S. government bonds. Yet, holders of private, state, and municipal
issues faces this threat. Why should federal creditors be exempt?
It would make them less likely to lend, you say? The feds would
have trouble going into debt? Don't throw us into that briar patch,
Brer Bush. And exempting deposit insurance means we should brace
ourselves for an S&L-scale bailout for criminally imprudent banks.
with these exemptions, however, the debt check-off is a great idea,
so naturally the treasury opposed it, for it would raise taxpayer
why left-liberal Princeton economist Alan Blinder criticized Bush
for proposing "a public referendum by voting with your tax dollars."
And what's wrong with that? It's unequal: "poor people" would
have "no vote. I would have many votes. And some of those people
down in Houston would have even more votes."
and I'd have fewer votes than the affluent Blinder. So what? Those
who pay more should have more say. Blinder calls this "profoundly
undemocratic" because it "invites the haves to take away from the
have-nots." In fact, it allows the looted (the have-nots) to reclaim
a little control from the looters (the haves).
of the ironies of modern democracy is , how undemocratic it becomes
when combined with government intervention. When private property
is insecure, democracies become redistribution rackets. That's why
so many special interests get rich today while passing the costs
on to the rest of society.
the milk industry, for example, favors milk subsidies. Only Chrysler
and its unions and its bankers favored a bailout of that company.
Such programs could not stand up to the bracing test of budget democracy.
Under such a plan, a tax form might include the following items:
government should send my money to:
d) The Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission;
e) My bank account.
money should fund:
a) Social workers;
d) My children's education.
government should subsidize:
a) Export industries;
b) Porno artists;
e) Space stations;
f) None of the above.
a) Own and manage 32% of the land area of the U.S.;
b) Favor big business over small through OSHA and other anti-market
c) Maintain financial dossiers on every American;
d) Discriminate against the majority;
e) Tell us to use more condoms and less tobacco;
f) Provide for the national defense.
given a chance, there can be little doubt that Americans would restore
something like limited, constitutional government. In fact, every
year, taxpayers should be sent plain-English copies of the budget.
We should be able to check off the items we want to buy with our
the new system, voter-taxpayers would be able to answer an economically
important question: on the margin, what's the best use for our money?
People in Georgia may like paying for welfare in California, but
do they like it more than keeping their own money?
budgeting isn't the ideal, of course. But since the Founding Fathers
have long since been discarded, it's a good second-best solution.
My pencil's sharpened. How about yours?