Much ado about cutting

Thinker.jpgHad I known nothing about economics or governance before watching last week’s Republican debates, I would have thought that destroying government was the only way to save it. I would, of course, be wrong. To quote Woodrow Wilson, “A conservative is a man who just sits and thinks - mostly sits.” While these particular conservatives were standing, it was clear that not much thinking was going on either.

Conservatives and business leaders are forever claiming that high taxes and over-regulation are killing the competiveness of American companies, thereby costing the nation much-needed jobs and diminishing our international stature.  This is classic “trickle down” theory, which wasn’t true when it was put forth thirty years ago, and is not true today. In fact, according to a new numbers released by the Census Bureau, it was a drop in demand for goods and services, and not overregulation, which caused most lay-offs last year.

And what of those “job-killing” tax increases that will destroy our economy and put us all out of work? Turns out they don’t have much effect either, as the incentive to make more money is very rarely tempered by the fact that some of that money will be paid in taxes. Think I’m making it up? Talk to the Oracle of Omaha – he certainly knows more about making money than either you or I.

All of us (well, most of us) understand that regulation, and the taxes that support that regulation, are a large part of what has made our country as strong as it has been for the past half-century. The EPA has given us remarkably cleaner air and water, the FDA prevented us from ingesting bogus drugs, the Department of Transportation keeps the highways rolling along, and on and on. Some argue that we no longer need these agencies because they have done their job, but those people do not understand that regulation is not a one and out process – it requires constant upkeep, even if you are just trying to maintain the status quo.

I am not asking that the Republican presidential candidates understand the minutia of macroeconomic theory, or even grasp the basics of regulatory law. All I’m asking is that they remember the names of the agencies they promised they would destroy, be able to talk competently about the duties these agencies perform for the taxpayers, and explain how we would be better off without them. This is a fundamental tenant of campaigning that even grade-schoolers understand.

Maybe it’s too much to ask of those seeking the highest office in government to know what they’re talking about. Maybe they should just sit down. And think.