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Dr. Congress and Mr. Hydieous

Here’s a letter to the New York Times:

Paul Krugman claims that anti-tax conservatives have “deprived” Uncle Sam of tax revenues (“We’re Not Greece,” May 14).  Because these inflation-adjusted revenues reached an all-time high in 2007 (just before the current recession) – and because, even in 2010, they remain 61 percent higher than they were in 1980 (the year the alleged curse of laissez-faireism befell America) – the only way Prof. Krugman can salvage his claim is to note that these revenues, although growing, haven’t kept pace with Uncle Sam’s even-faster-growing spending.

Alas, this attempted salvage operation fails.  It assumes that the expenditure side of Uncle Sam’s budget accurately reflects the appropriate will of The People while the revenue side reflects the evil machinations of forces bent on undermining The People’s will and best interests.  Prof. Krugman can’t have it both ways.  If he insists that Congress and the President are inspired public servants when they fashion the spending side of the budget, he cannot legitimately insist that these same officials are dupes or miscreants when they fashion the revenue side.

Put differently, it’s at least as justified to accuse left-liberals of recklessly fattening the beast with excessive spending as it is to accuse conservatives of greedily starving the beast with brakes on tax hikes.  Indeed, given human beings’ natural irresponsibility when spending other people’s money, the former accusation is far more plausible than the latter.

Donald J. Boudreaux


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