Dec 3, 2009

Reductio ad Absurdum

Anyone who follows politics has heard the label. It is applied often on the campaign trail, on talk radio, and on the cable news networks. It applies to every state and county in the nation, and everyone from municipal councils to the President of the United States.

"Tax and spend government:"

This has become a pejorative term, an accusation by conservatives to portray government as some kind of thief that takes peoples money away - the act of taxation is equated with the act of stealing. The redistributive properties of the act of appropriation is equated with embezzlement. The libertarian argument suggests that individuals acting alone make more efficient decisions on how to spend and distribute their money. The constitution is brought up as evidence in these arguments that the government does not have the power to tax and spend.

History, especially American history, suggests this argument is senseless. For one thing, would a government even exist without the power to raise revenue and then spend it for the good of all its constituents? It is absurd.

How do these people criticizing 'tax and spend' government think roads are built? Our soldiers fed and transported?

If we so weakened our federal government, if we drastically reduced the power to raise and spend money, how would we pay off our debt?

What would countries like Russia and China think of us?

How many of their constituents would lose jobs that exist because of government money?

Taxation and appropriation are the core powers of our government, the foundation upon which our institutions have been built and the lifeblood by which they exist. Furthermore, in the United States the government is representative of the people - at least, the people who vote. When our democracy is truly participatory, our legislators and congressmen choose what is going to be taxed and where our money is going to be spent. We elect these men and women to very short terms from smaller districts - they most closely represent we the people, and they are the ones who decide how our money is going to be spent. If voters object to how taxes are being raised and appropriated, they have the power to change who is in office. Therefore, government absolutely does have the right to tax and spend money because it is representative of the needs and the will of the people.

When the Constitution was written the U.S. had been operating under the Articles of Confederation, a congress with no power of taxation was the entire federal government. The year before the constitutional convention a Massachusetts farm hand and former continental army soldier named Daniel Shays led a rebellion over imprisonment and confiscation due to war debt and lack of payment. The government was helpless to put down the rebellion or pay its soldiers. The rebels inflicted massive amounts of damage on the Massachusetts country side until their fury finally subsided.

Eight years later, during the presidency of George Washington, another rebellion occurred in western Pennsylvania over the taxation of whiskey. Using the governments powers to raise and spend revenue and field an army, Washington was able to use power to put down the rebellion and restore peace to the region.

The difference in these two situations was the United States Constitution. Not only does the Constitution expressly give the government broad powers to tax its constituents and to spend that revenue to provide infrastructure, safety and security to the country. To keep the people safe from internal rebellion or foreign security threats. To give us schools, roads, police officers, firefighters, to ensure a basic standard of living for everyone in common. That power was clearly intended by the Constitution's authors.

There is nothing wrong with "tax and spend" government and the people who make that argument clearly don't know what they are talking about. The whole concept of a representative government without the power to tax and spend is absurd. Without the power to raise and spend revenue, government will cease to exist and we will devolve into anarchy. Those in the TEA bagger movement should be criticizing their fellow Americans for making democratic choices that led to revenue and appropriation patterns that they disagree with. It is still our government, after all. Their arguments are absurd.

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Keep it civil and pg-13, please.