As Congressional Republicans moved forward with their massive tax overhaul, the government moved closer to another potential shutdown due to the continuing failure of Congress to pass a long-term budget resolution. Cutting taxes before figuring out how to fund government and/or reduce government services is akin to reducing one’s hours working in the face of unpaid bills. One particularly sensitive issue is the funding of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, commonly known as CHIP. Once an unshakable bipartisan cause, the State-run, Federally-funded program, which provides health insurance for the children of low income families, Republicans now insist the cost of the program must be covered by spending reductions elsewhere, even as they provide massive tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy without reducing spending or raising taxes elsewhere.
CHIP exemplifies the shift in Republican spending and taxing priorities. As the GOP further assimilates libertarian factions into its ranks and a ballooning National Debt pressures lawmakers to prioritize government spending, Republicans find themselves on a slippery slope. The tax and spending policies that the GOP embraces today will define their identity and moral character tomorrow. Guaranteeing children have access to healthcare is an example of providing government services for people in need. It is an example of government giving individuals, who cannot provide for themselves, what they need to survive and thrive. It is an example of proper governance. Cutting taxes for wealthier individuals and businesses, while ignoring a Federal Debt, is both imprudent and dysfunctional.
When it comes to tax cuts, Republicans refuse to answer the most crucial questions. Because they more or less believe taxes should be voluntary, they seem to believe government has no fundamental authority to tax. Anyone who protests taxation is, therefore, entitled to a tax cut, thus those with the loudest voices, i.e. special interests, can get a tax break under Republican leadership. The problem is that government is a shared responsibility, which means the burden of government spending must be shared. The reality is government must be funded through taxes while taxes cannot be a voluntary obligation. The Republican-libertarian worldview does not take this reality into account. To them, each and every tax cut is progress toward a tax-free world, even if these tax cuts mean others must pay more for government.
What Republicans refuse to answer is how to fund the government people need and want. The GOP favors heavy military spending and low social welfare spending while libertarians favor minimalist government spending. They, in turn, develop their spending and tax policies based on these criteria. A small Federal Budget may be what Republicans want, but that is not what the US Federal Budget is. Unfortunately, GOP policy priorities reflect what they want reality to be instead of what it actually is. Republican views on spending and taxes also fail to realize alternatives views. A democratic republic is ruled by the People through representatives, thus tax and spending priorities will never be solely what Republicans want. Republicans are refusing to recognize this reality.
When it comes to tax and spending policies, tax cuts and spending are easy. The hard part is raising taxes and cutting spending. It requires the American People to decide what they want government to provide and how they are going to pay for those services. It requires honestly on behalf of the American Peoples’ representatives. If the American People want to spend money on particular government services, it is the job of lawmakers to provide financing options, not sabotage the funding process to give tax breaks to influential people who do not want to pay for government. Taxes and government spending must be a collective decision by the American People. Republicans hope to move onto spending cuts in 2018, but they cannot do this until they resolve the funding issue that their tax cuts have exasperated.
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