Friday, April 17, 2009

Now they're tossing tea?

I missed last year's protest. Fox News must not have covered it. Surely it happened.

Flag-waving protesters last April packed town squares to denounce out-of-sight deficits and unaccounted-for dollar signs.

Surely it happened: an orchestrated national repudiation of a president and his political enablers in Washington.

That is, surely it happened last Tax Day, before the repudiation that happened on Election Day.

If all this didn't happen last April, and if you hear what the town-square speakers say this April, you'd think the guy who arrived in January, Barack Obama, invented deficit spending. Which, if you listen to Fox News, most surely he did.

As he caused the financial system meltdown. As he caused the collapse of housing and the auto industry. As he caused the 8.5 percent national unemployment rate.

That may have been the case in each instance, but I missed it. What I did see was:

Our government was putting tax cuts, particularly for those of considerable means, above the business of balancing the books. This happened not when the economy was in dire straits and needed triage. It happened when one party controlled the government and could, well, do what it wished.

I saw our government roll tanks into a foreign land based on false claims, then put all the expenses on a credit card known as "supplemental items" — off-budget.

Combine Iraq with invading and occupying Afghanistan, and we've spent $536 billion — headed to a trillion dollars — and with no clue how to recover the costs.

Those costs weren't reflected in the $482 billion deficit Obama inherited, part of a doubling of the national debt over the preceding eight years, now at $11 trillion.

Surely protesters were gathered denouncing these matters last April. Surely they were worried about passing costs onto future generations when they, as taxpayers, could have ponied up for the "onward march of freedom." Then again, they could have and Fox News didn't cover it.

What Obama has done as president sounds outlandish to some. He has borrowed to pay for highways, schools and infrastructure. Sort of like what we have been doing in Iraq.

Iraq has its problems, yes. As do we.

Ever since tax-cut maven Ronald Reagan winked and grinned through the blossoming of runaway deficits, we've found reasons not to deal with the infrastructure that makes this country operate smoothly.

The tax-day protesters probably think what Reagan did was just fine, cutting taxes and then shifting spending priorities from domestic needs to military needs.

They'll say the largest peacetime defense buildup in American history was worth every dime. So, why wouldn't one want to pay for it with one's own dime?

They'll denounce the tax-and-spend liberals, like Jimmy Carter.

Yes, Carter, the president who made so many enemies with domestic spending cuts. What? Don't recall? It's probably because Fox News wasn't around to report it.

Enemies were made with the "Carter hit list" — federal spending projects the administration determined the nation could do without. Carter was trying to rein in the deficit, while dealing with a reeling economy.

Barack Obama says the deficits must and will be addressed, but right now the nation's economic swoon must be arrested.

Call me crazy, but I actually find it refreshing that people are protesting — now — about deficits. It always intrigued me as to why so-called fiscal conservatives were so mute on the matter, say, last April.

Wednesday, Obama made a point to highlight the tax breaks built into his stimulus package — maybe to placate the Tea Party honkers. I wish he hadn't.

Dating back to Reagan, with the winking consent of the governed, we've bought more government than we want to pay for, while cutting taxes on a whim.

Deficits? The issue isn't taxation without representation. It's misrepresentation about the function of taxation.

John Young's column appears Thursday and Sunday. E-mail:

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