Let’s say you had an uncle (we’ll call him “Sam”) who was rich and powerful and had a way with the ladies but, as inevitably happens to all uncles, eventually became a pathetic, embarrassing shadow of his former self—the Charlie Sheen of uncles. Having fallen on hard times, not only doesn’t he send money on your birthdays any more, he may even ask to borrow a few bucks, which you’d be crazy lend him since he’s in hock up to his turtleneck to the Chinese mafia.
It’s all pretty sad because you remember your uncle at his peak, when he was handsome and popular and taking in enormous sums of money providing “protection” and waste removal services. Flush with success, he even earmarked some of that wealth to send the neighborhood kids to school, pay for grandma’s gall bladder surgery, feed poor folks, build a park and take the elderly on bus trips to the ballgame. What a mensch!
But over the decades your Uncle Sam’s revenue dried up like Gaylord Perry’s spitball. Those same high rollers who used to pay him 70 percent of their income to do business in the neighborhood now pay only 17 percent, and some of those customers have grown so larGE, they pay nothing at all. So your uncle has two choices: increase his revenue, or cut back on his spending. Like any American looking to make a better life for himself, the logical decision would be to take in more money, improve one’s circumstances, rise up – you know, the American Dream! But instead, he’s being talked into tightening his patent leather belt, and the result isn’t pretty.
How did your Uncle Sam go from stud-muffin to muffin-top?
Oh, screw it. Let’s ditch the metaphor and get down to brass tacks (as your uncle would say). America’s economy is still in the toilet, and we seem to have two choices: increase revenue (ask the tight-fisted wealthiest Americans who have enjoyed decades of prosperity to pay the same taxes they did a decade ago), or cut spending (as long as it’s on services for the most vulnerable Americans—the poor, elderly, children, lame, halt, maimed, and puppies with mange).
Just before this most recent showy act of autoerotic belt-tightening around the neck of the American people, the fiscally responsible GOP forced a vote to SPEND nearly $850 billion in BORROWED dollars to extend the Bush tax cuts, which had already added $2.6 trillion to the national debt. Then, they hit the metaphorical ceiling over hitting the debt ceiling, wailing that it would be irresponsible to raise the limit on federal borrowing—something they voted to do seven times in eight years under the Bush administration. In fairness, that was to pay for two unnecessary wars, to the tune of $1.3 trillion so far.
So, after spending nearly $5 trillion on their two shiniest toys—war and tax cuts—now is the time to stop spending! It’s like your uncle went out and bought a Ferrari and a fleet of hookers and then told your aunt to lay off the shoe shopping.
Here’s why revenue is more important than spending, to both uncles and America: the U.S. economy has doubled in size since 1980, but thanks to a tax-cut-happy Congress, tax revenues are the lowest in sixty years. And where did all that prosperity go? Not to the middle class, whose wages have remained stagnant since 1973, which was also the last time we thought “Laugh-In” was funny. Virtually all the economic gains of the past thirty years have gone to the top 1 percent, who are paying historically low tax rates…and since they currently own 40 percent of America’s wealth they could probably afford to pay another 3 percent of their gilded good fortune without missing a yacht payment. Thanks to the GOP they won’t have to, but grandma’s gall bladder is her fucking problem.
Simply put, if you take in revenue, you have money to spend. Everybody knows that, even your loser uncle…which is why as long as the money’s coming in, your aunt tolerates the hookers.