Principles and the Fiscal Cliff

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Overspending has been the focus of the Tea Party from the beginning of the movement. Along the way we have refined our strategy and tactics, but principles of fiscal responsibility have always governed our positions.

 The same cannot be said of some Washington-based activists. As Phil Klein of The Washington Examiner pointed out on New Year’s Day:

What has been shocking, however, is that I’m seeing a number of conservative critics blasting the deal for increasing deficits by $4 trillion when about 92 percent of that projected increase comes from tax cuts that they support.…For decades, conservatives have been complaining — for good reason — whenever liberals conflate tax cuts and spending. Now, in campaigning against this fiscal cliff deal, they are following the lead of liberals.

Let’s just take a moment to remember why this is so significant. By describing tax cuts as a “cost” and as “spending” as liberals typically do, it suggests that all income is effectively the federal government’s to keep. Anything less than 100 percent taxation is effectively a subsidy if this line of reasoning is followed to its logical conclusion. However, conservatives have always rightly argued that it’s the people who have the right to their own earnings. When Americans pay fewer taxes than they otherwise would, it doesn’t represent a cost — it represents savings.

This deal does increase deficits by nearly $4 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office — but more than $3.6 trillion of that amount comes from forgone tax revenue.

Klein is right to call out those who say the legislation is a “cost” due to forgone tax revenue. The fact is that honestly-earned money belongs to those who earned it, not a government entity. The moment that changes the ability of the people to own property is dangerously reduced. This has never been a good thing for society.

The real cost in the bill is in the farm bill’s one-year extension. It’s in the unemployment benefits extension. It’s in unnecessary spending additions to the bill that, as The Washington Post notes, are “attached to this bill because somebody in power wanted badly for them to pass.”

In the midst of legislative battles, it’s easy to fall prey to talking points designed for political advantage. However, violating principles to score political points is part of the problem in Washington, it would be wise for those who are Tea Party-minded to focus on solutions, not short-term political scores that undermine our long-term efforts to return America to greatness.