Right for the wrong reason

Andy Matthews

A Las Vegas Sun editorial published last weekend caught my eye for its sub-headline, which is dead-on accurate: "State government wrestling a budget crisis largely of its own making". Then I read the editorial.

According to the editors, the reason we're in this crisis is because, you guessed it, our taxes are too low.

"In bad economic times, the state government does not take in enough money to continue with even minimum funding of public services. And when the economy is bad, neither legislators nor the governor is apt to suggest raising taxes," the editorial reads.

The editors offer this suggestion: "For the government to have a stable flow of income, it should concede that incremental tax increases are necessary."

Now let's go back to that sub-headline for just a second. It's accurate, as I said – but not in the way the Sun's editors believe.

As I wrote in a May 1 commentary for NPRI: "A big part of our modern-day problem is that politicians regularly use budget surpluses to go on lavish spending sprees, subsidizing their favorite special interests. Then, when leaner times make it impossible to fund all the new programs they've created, they throw up their hands and cry 'Crisis!' Reining in spending, even during good times, would soften the blow of the next downturn."

In other words, our current dilemma stems not from lower-than-needed taxes, but from the reckless behavior of our politicians during prosperous times. We can't fund all of our "critical services," as the Sun calls them, because our short-sighted politicians have created far more "services" than government should be funding to begin with.

Cutting spending, not raising taxes, is the way to go – and it makes both short-term and long-term sense.