While on one level I realize it’s cool (and humorous) to make fun of the tea parties (am I late on this topic? too bad!), I find the “but they don’t have a plan” criticism to lack punch:
I cannot really come up with a better word than juvenile for the tea parties — don’t protest the taxes unless you can identify the specific cuts in expenditures that you would make to bring the budget into balance. If you think taxes are bad, then you should think deficits are worse, because they raise the taxes of people who were not represented in the decisions to spend the money.
First, from what I could tell from the minor amount of attention I paid to them, there actually were lots of anti-spending signs involved. Some I agree with, some I don’t, some fall into the “protest weirdo” category. Secondly, if you want to criticize the specific people at tea parties with this argument, that’s fine. But to imply that this criticism applies to libertarians (the post title above was “Libertarians And Taxes”) in general is kinda nuts. Libertarians love cutting spending, for better or worse. If you look around you can find prominent (and not-so-prominent) libertarians talking about cutting nearly everything: the post office, medicare, welfare, social security, military, corporate subsidies, nearly every major department of government, scientific research, public schooling, and just about anything else.
In fact, of all the political persuasions you can be in America besides “pure anarchist,” it’s hard to imagine any of them talking more about cutting spending than libertarians — certainly “cutting spending” is not featured in either of the major parties’ platforms. I completely agree with the Friedman quote in Samwick’s piece that there’s no point to cutting taxes without cutting spending, but if we’re going to be tarring people with that brush, libertarians wouldn’t be my first target.
Also, I’m not sure I get why there’s a “I’m not so sure” in Samwick’s statement here: [my bold]
Libertarians and Taxes: From David Boaz of the Cato Institute, who visited Dartmouth yesterday:
Too many advocates of small government still have this lingering attachment to the Republican party,” Boaz said. “It’s like being a battered wife — how long do you wait to leave?
Perhaps the more interesting part of the analogy is, Where do you go when you leave? Typically, it is not to another partner, but to a period in which you are not in a relationship until you can recover from what just happened and make the changes that are needed so it never happens again. Are the Libertarians doing that? I’m not so sure. Consider more of what Boaz said: Boaz described the recent Republican tea parties in protest of tax day as “the revival of a freedom movement.” He also referenced a recent advertisement run by the Cato Institute in several major U.S. newspapers, including The New York Times. The advertisement discussed perceived flaws in the economic stimulus package. “Someday, this ad is going to be remembered as the revival of the free market movement,” Boaz said.
It seems to me that an ad pointing out flaws in the economic stimulus package (which is spending) actually does seem precisely like “identify[ing] the specific cuts in expenditures that you would make to bring the budget into balance.” Certainly even eliminating even the entire stimulus wouldn’t have balanced the budget by itself, but it really does seem like proposing something you think should be cut. Just glancing over Cato’s website I see quite a few articles that, if their recommendations were heeded, would cut government spending. Did I really just have to explain that Cato often advocates cutting government spending? Is this a revelation to anyone?
Finally, if we all agree with ”To spend is to tax” then in addition to demanding that anti-tax people having spending cuts lined up, then we must also demand that anyone advocating spending proposals have tax increase plans to go along with them. I’m sure any libertarian will agree to this bargain.