Taxes, Social Spending and Recessions

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[This Commentary originally appeared in the September 27, 1990 issue of The Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel.]

CarosaCommentaryNewLogo_259There’s a demon looming on the horizon. It hasn’t been around for a long, long time, but it’s there. People have been talking about it for a few years, though it remains just beyond the edge of our view. Some folks have even said it’s been seen, yet only by limited regions of the country and only for a short time.

Nobody knows how bad this demon will be. Nobody’s even sure if the demon will show its face. Still others will argue the demon stands in our midst now.

The evil has an evil aura about it. People fear the very thought of it, even those who remember its last couple of visits.

The demon’s most recent encounter occurred in the early 1980s. It came to us after nearly a decade of stagnation. It fed upon the final rusty wrenching of the transition from a manufacturing economy to a service economy. The demon hurt a lot of people.

I knew some of those people. I didn’t like what the demon did.

Ironically, though, for all its destruction back then, people seemed less concerned about the demon then than they do now. For one thing, things in general hadn’t been good for such a long time that people had developed a hard skin. Similarly, a lot of people figured the demon would just once and for all wash away all those impractical inefficiencies we knew we had to evolve away from. Finally, since things had been so bad for so long, people just thought things couldn’t get much worse. So they stuck it out, knowing their lives would improve in short order.

Today, the populace has an unnatural fear of the demon. They see its stopover not like what happened in the early 1980s, but more like what happened in the early 1970s. Back then, the coming of the demon signaled the end of a long period of prosperity. We had reached such heights that everyone knew we had to go down.

I lived through it, just like most of you. I don’t remember too much about it, though, which is OK since I was barely out of elementary school when it hit. The problem, however, might be that the world’s greatest LBO conjurers (whom reside under the dome of our Capitol building) don’t appear to remember much of anything.

And we have begun to see the ill effects of this lack of foresight. Already, maybe because of the demon, more underprivileged folks ask our country for help. This means we need to devote more government money in the areas of social spending.

At the same time, as the demon begins to strain our economic muscle, the government must accept less revenue from its tax rolls. Something is going to snap.

Clearly, somebody goofed. When the demon was far away, we should have been saving for the rain it would eventually bring. Instead, we got second and third mortgages. Everybody talked about saving, but nobody did anything about it. Two Presidents offered some proposals.

Five hundred-thirty-four Congressmen and Senators felt it better to brush the dirt under the rug while they played their trivial political games. The Grace Commission, in the mid-eighties, alluded to the “Budget Trials” of the future before the political establishment snuffed out their dour predictions. Unfortunately, the lack of attention to fiscal responsibility is nothing less than a national dishonor, if not actually a crime.

What can be done? What can be done? That’s a very, very, good question. Primarily, we can all start paying attention. Some of you more astute readers already are. Next, we must all ask the question, “What can be done?”

We totter on the brink of a national crisis, and no one talks about it. Nobody has sincerely researched alternative solutions because the vast majority has not acknowledged a problem exists, let alone tries to announce it as a priority.

We all have to live within our means. We all learn to live within our means. Is it too much trouble to demand our government act with the same financial integrity that we demand of ourselves?

Next Week #78: …On Vacation, Back Next Week… (originally published on September 20, 1990)
Next Week #80: EDITORIAL (originally published on October 4, 1990)

[What is this and why is here? See Interested in Discovering My Time Machine? for more details.]



  1. Author’s Comment: Spooky. In 2011, we closed one of the worst economic quarters in an already sanguine economic period that had, at that time, already stretched to three years. I was forced to think “Is today the day the demon alluded to in the article has finally arrived?” In the 1980s, the issue of over-extended credit transfixed our national discussion (certainly you don’t think I alone brought this topic to the forefront?). Yet the peace dividend and the still fertile minds of creative entrepreneurs inspired another decade of phenomenal economic growth. But, back then, policies and the national mood encouraged such acts. Some thirty years later, with high profile candidates bringing back class warfare and anarchic protesters decrying capitalism with demonstrations near Wall Street, we seem to be fighting a battle I had thought we won long ago. Are we forever doomed to never learn from history? How can we ever expect to grow as a nation, as an economy and as a species if we must continually repeat the mistakes of the past?

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