PARR: Taxes, budget surpluses and dueling ideologies

March 15, 2014

For some time now, there has been a concerted effort—primarily by Republicans—to tackle tax reform. Essentially, the plan is to lower rates for all Americans and close loopholes, doing so in a revenue-neutral manner.

To no surprise, the proposal faces an uphill battle, what with a polarized Congress and many Democrats thinking that taxing the wealthy is the cure to society’s ills. One of Indiana’s congressmen, Todd Young, is a vocal proponent of this “broaden the base and lower the rates” policy.

Fortunately for Hoosiers, recent discussions in Indianapolis are not about how to best rewrite the tax code, but rather which parts of the code should be eliminated altogether. This reality amply illustrates some of the fundamental differences between practical conservative leadership and tax-and-spend liberalism.

Recently, I overheard two of my progressive friends complaining about Indiana’s budget surplus. About how despicable it is that college tuition has exponentially increased so frequently. About low levels of teacher pay. About how early-childhood education is critical. About our crumbling infrastructure.

They would no doubt disagree, but their discussion was similar to many I have with my conservative allies.

Teachers, like most every other worker, deserve better pay for exceeding expectations. That is an idea Republicans have pushed time and time again, only to be told they hate teachers and want uneducated kids.

Most common-sensical people from across the political spectrum agree that college tuition is far too high—though, unfortunately for my liberal friends, that is due in large part to the explosion of academic bureaucracy and the federal government’s meddling in the college loan market. Funny how one’s views change when it affects you directly.

Preschool can, and in many instances does, have positive impacts—especially among children from less-advantaged homes. But let us not confuse government-run institutions as being on equal footing with an engaged and caring family (plus, preschool vouchers for children from low-income homes are right around the corner). Spending on infrastructure is vital—just ask Gov. Pence.

It’s interesting to note that the issue of infrastructure is a microcosm of the larger discussion regarding budget surpluses. As illustrated in the president’s “you didn’t build that” line from the 2012 election, liberals (and frankly some Republicans) assure the rest of us that, without government “paving” the way for business, there would be no roads and therefore no business.

In actuality, this is profoundly backward; it is because of the needs of business that governments build roads—this is not a matter of semantics but instead a central disagreement about which entity is the cart and which is the ox.

This brings us back to the discussion about the budget surplus. If we want to be truthful, the real reason my liberal friends don’t like the surplus is because of a hard-wired trust in the ability of government to create optimal outcomes for society.

Few individuals would disagree with the notion that governments and the economy are forever intertwined. Yet, that fact does not automatically dictate every penny brought in by government should be immediately spent.

Responsible spending on necessary government functions is an important part of how society operates.

However, we should take to heart historical examples of excess government spending. Instead of castigating Indiana’s leaders for being prudent with Hoosiers’ money, we should congratulate them for recognizing the fundamental fact that citizens and businesses are the ones that know best how to create a thriving economy.•


Parr, an Indiana University junior majoring in political science, is president of the IU College Republicans. Send comments to ibjedit@ibj.com.


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