Republicans were quick to call out mega-billionaire Warren Buffett for arguing the nation’s super-rich are under-taxed.
“For tax-raising advocates like Warren Buffett, I am sure Treasury would take a voluntary payment for deficit reduction,” tweeted Senator John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, during the 2011 debt ceiling dispute.
“If Warren Buftet [sic] wants to pay more taxes and send more of his money to Washington, why doesn’t he just do it?” tweeted Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for House majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Republican from Virginia.
In the spirt of Republican calls for voluntary revenue enhancements to solve the nation’s ever-expanding debt, and with due apologies to Jonathan Swift, I offer “A Modest Proposal” for the spending side of the fiscal ledger.
Here is my suggestion: Those who believe Washington should slash spending should come forward and voluntarily decline federal services, just as Republicans call on the wealthy who believe they are under-taxed to voluntarily contribute to paying down the national debt.
If you voted for a tea party candidate, for example, then presumably you favor draconian spending cuts. So, step up to the plate and in the spirit of your vote, turn down federal services. Those who favor cuts could refuse to accept Social Security payments; they could opt out of Medicare and pay for their own health care.
The rest of us, who favor the social safety net, could enjoy the benefits of these federal programs.
Communities that send deficit hawks to Congress could turn down federal subsidies. Farming communities in Kansas that consistently vote Republican should back their ideological convictions with their pocketbooks and turn down farm subsidies.
Overwhelmingly red states, demonstrate to us your redness by declining federal money for Head Start. Reject federal grants for education at all levels. Don’t accept money for Food Stamps and let your churches and other voluntary organizations feed the hungry.
Conservatives, if you want smaller government, then go small. Do without or let your state and local governments take over all the functions performed by the federal government. Come on Kansas! Let’s go Oklahoma! Step up Utah!
Here’s a bet I’m confident I’d win: No one, no state, no city, no county, no individual will accept my modest proposal.
Why? Because everyone benefits from the federal government. Every program run by Washington is in the federal budget because someone likes it, someone benefits from it.
The odd thing about the spending debate is the most avid of deficit slashers usually come from states that benefit the most from federal spending. Louisiana, for example, receives $1.45 in federal largesse for every $1 it sends to Washington; Alabama takes $1.71 for every $1 that goes the other way; South Carolina gets $1.38 on its $1 investment, and so on. All of these states are very red; none have volunteered to return the excess; all hungrily suck on the federal teat.
By contrast, New York gets 79 cents for its tax dollar and Michigan, badly hit by the recession and in need of help, gets 85 cents. Both states voted twice for Barack Obama.
The naiveté of Americans who rail against federal spending yet benefit from it never ceases to amaze. I wrote a year ago about Ki Gulbranson, who typifies this mindset. Mr. Gulbranson earns about $39,000 annually. He insists he does not need federal help, claims too many people depend on Washington for assistance, believes the federal budget should be slashed, and supports the tea party.
Yet Mr. Gulbranson relies on thousands of dollars in a government subsidy for working families called earned-income tax credit. His three school-age children eat breakfast and lunch free at federal expense. And Medicare paid for his 88-year-old mother to have hip surgery -- twice.
I guess Mr. Gulbranson does not view any of this as federal assistance.
Ki Gulbranson is not alone in railing against federal subsidies on the one hand while accepting Washington’s benefits on the other.
The rest of us should not be so gullible.