NOTHSTINE: A moral case for tax cuts and reform

Despite progressive claims to the contrary, one of the biggest problems in Washington is not a lack of revenue but unsustainable spending. This month, private citizens will be sending about $1.5 trillion of their hard-earned dollars to Washington to be mismanaged, with no relief in sight. (This does not include the hundreds of billions of dollars annually to comply with the current tax code).Republicans are promising a major tax reform overhaul before the end of the year. While they must work to simplify and modernize a pathetically complex tax code, the GOP should too call for aggressive cuts on individual and corporate rates.A popular and oft-repeated rallying cry pushed by some politicians and lawmakers is that spending must be reduced before taxes can be cut. While there is truth to be gleaned from this statement, there is, of course, no urgency in Washington to curtail federal spending. This is evidenced by the debt explosion, exacerbated by former President Barack Obama’s $831 billion stimulus boondoggle. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has proposed his own infrastructure package that could approach $1 trillion. The new president even campaigned on no reforms to runaway entitlement spending, which poses the greatest obstacle to long-term economic sustainability.The federal debt, about to surpass $20 trillion, could rise as high as 225 percent of gross domestic product over the next three decades, per the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. The debt has doubled in only 10 years and America is facing $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities. This only spells higher taxes for Americans coupled with dramatic cuts to entitlements and government services. Every dollar spent and borrowed by the government ultimately comes from the pockets of its citizens.Why cut taxes now? The obvious reason is that lower taxes increase wages, create jobs, and promote overall economic growth and health. However, another reason Americans should be demanding tax relief is perhaps more obvious: The federal government has woefully mismanaged the funds it already receives from taxpayers. As Calvin Coolidge so aptly noted, a government without “sound public policy is not a protector of liberty, but an instrument of tyranny. It condemns the citizen to servitude.”It is essential for Americans to demand accountability and transparency from government before it continues to part with further confiscation of property through taxation. It would be wise to once again adopt the attitude noted by the 18th century English writer Samuel Johnson, who declared that our American forefathers “were probably the lowest taxed people in the history of the human race, and they resented every penny.”Ultimately the goal of tax reform and good tax policy should be to reorient the federal government toward its legitimate spending obligations prescribed by the Constitution. After all, the states and civil society exist for a reason. Simplifying the tax code, by limiting deductions, and preferably nixing the payroll tax, will help Americans see more clearly the true and brutal cost of government spending. Furthermore, the increasing number of Americans who pay no federal income taxes is detrimental to the stability of the Republic. Even low-income earners should bear a very minimal burden of the spending and debt crisis.The last time there was major tax reform was over 11,000 days ago in 1986. Since then the federal debt has ballooned from $2 trillion to an unacceptable $20 trillion. Our current tax and spend policy makes a mockery of the idea that the government is the servant of the people and that its mission is to “secure the blessings of liberty.”Tax cuts remain a moral necessity if Washington lacks the political courage to be good stewards of the property and resources of its citizens. Tax cuts coupled with spending cuts is the most fiscally prudent path forward. Let’s hope Washington is finally paying attention.Ray Nothstine is a member of the North State Journal’s editorial board, separate from the news staff. Unlike other newspapers, the North State Journal does not publish unsigned editorials; the author or authors of every editorial, letter, op-ed, and column is prominently displayed. To submit a letter or op-ed, see our submission guidelines.