It’s the spending, stupid!

This chart from the NYT has been making its way around the internet, most recently over at Cafe Hayek, where Russ Roberts makes a few really great points. Notice that the largest contributor listed is the Bush tax cuts, coming in at $1.8 trillion:

Time and time again I’ve tried to dispel the notion that tax cuts are expenditures. It is simple – you cannot spend what you do not have. Claiming as such is akin to stating that someone is running a $50k deficit because their employer only pays them $35k per year.

Adhering to such a philosophy – that tax cuts are the key contributor to our debt – is to believe that our entire debt is due merely to a failure to raise taxes. It’s not an income problem, it’s a spending problem.

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2 thoughts on “It’s the spending, stupid!

  1. Your commentary basically comes down to wording, not substance. The point of this chart is that the Bush-era tax cuts took money out of the federal budget. Obama extended those tax cuts but since that money was already out of the federal budget, it’s not listed under his column. There’s a difference between cost and spending that you’re ignoring.

    • My focus was indeed on the wording because certain diction is often indicative of a philosophy. I’m not claiming that cutting those taxes without equally slashing spending didn’t result in a larger deficit – of course it did. My point was to combat the ideology that the problem is a lack of revenue when it is an excess of spending (in other words, don’t incur the cost and you won’t have to spend to pay your debt).

      I cannot go to my employer and demand a raise because I have incurred debt beyond my ability to pay. Yet there are those with the mindset to claim that my debt is a result of my employer’s failure to give me a raise and place no blame on my profligacy.

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