Student Life | The independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis since 1878

Increase quality, not price of citizenship

For the price we pay, we expect a great deal of benefits from the University. For the most part, the school delivers. But imagine if Washington University consisted of unresponsive teachers, poor job placement, fewer services, and unnecessary departments that yielded little benefit to students. And, on top of that, they asked for a substantial tuition increase. We would be offended that school officials would require us to pick up the tab for their mismanagement and poor planning. As a result, many students would probably leave, enrollment would decline and the school would suffer.

A similar situation is presented when President Obama calls on Americans to pay higher taxes to deal with the debt burden. By asking Americans to fork over more of their earnings to pay for past mistakes of both parties, the president is legitimizing the status quo. Americans will not receive better government, better leadership or more efficiency as a result; they will merely have less money to spend.

Just as students would flock away from a poorly performing school, some Americans and companies will leave the country, taking investment, capital and jobs with them. Other Americans will reduce their income, as the incentive to take risks in the economy is diminished. Most Americans will pay the increase, unable or unwilling to move. The tax increase might cause a slight rise in government revenue, but at the expense of money available in the private sector.

Tax rates have fluctuated throughout the past century, but tax revenue has remained constant at around 18 percent of GDP. Whether the government takes 75 percent or 25 percent of American’s earnings, it is to going to receive a constant percentage of revenue. While tax receipts remains relatively lower as a result of the economic downturn, there is little evidence that increasing taxes at this point will lead to higher revenue. It will cause a decrease in private capital, though, threatening to further delay a recovery.

The solution lies in fixing the government. A budget over $3 trillion is not only unsustainable, and it is unwanted. Americans don’t need a government that polices the world. Americans don’t want a government that gropes them at airports and listens to their phone calls. The notion that only the government can protect us from cradle to grave should be rejected; it removes responsibility from the individual and fosters a dependence on Washington. Despite taking in around $200 billion a month in revenue, our government has failed to properly manage its finances; a $1.5 trillion deficit isn’t even close!

Americans should not be asked to forfeit more of their earnings to a government that has failed in its duty. Instead, Americans should demand real change in Washington, beginning with a dismantling of the welfare-warfare state. To be sure, there are many government programs that provide some benefit to low-income and elderly Americans; the cuts need not begin there. Instead, the corporate welfare expenditures from agriculture to energy to military should be eliminated. Unnecessary entanglements abroad should be halted, as they are counterproductive to American security. The ability of a central bank to manipulate currency is dangerous when unchecked; more transparency should be required. The government’s intrusion into our bank accounts, businesses and health isn’t needed; sacrificing liberty for safety results in the loss of both.

Our federal government faces a spending problem, not a revenue problem. The underlying role of government in our lives should be questioned and changed. A poorly performing university would be forced to adapt or go out of business. We should force our government to change before our debt leads to bankruptcy.

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  • Joe says:

    “The tax increase might cause a slight rise in government revenue, but at the expense of money available in the private sector.”

    -Allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire would lead to a huge rise in revenue; find me a study that says otherwise. My problem with the poorly performing university analogy is that, unlike the continuous increase in tuition over the years, US taxes are lower now than they were in the last decade. Democrats are not asking to raise taxes after raising taxes after raising taxes … they merely wish to restore them to previous levels.

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Student Life | The independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis since 1878