F.R. Duplantier reporting Behind The Headlines
Week of:
February 20, 2000
Tax & Spend! Tax & Spend! Tax & Spend!

F.R. Duplantier

by: F.R. Duplantier

The biggest problem with our federal government is that it has too much money to spend.

"Despite widely publicized congressional hearings on the Internal Revenue Service in 1997 and 1998, the tax code has become even more complex and burdensome over the past four years," charge Daniel Mitchell and William Beach of the Heritage Foundation. "The vast majority of Americans," they say, "now believe it should be scrapped and replaced by a simple and fair system such as the flat tax that treats all tax-payers equally."

In the chapter they contributed to the Heritage Foundation's new briefing book for Presidential and Congressional candidates, called Issues 2000, Mitchell and Beach argue that the flat tax would "eliminate confusing and discriminatory special-interest preferences in the Internal Revenue Code. It would lower tax rates on work, savings, investment, risk-taking, and entrepreneurship. It would be so simple," they claim, "that the billions of hours that currently are needed each year to comply with the maze of tax forms, rules, regulations, and other requirements could be put to better use. And it would virtually eliminate the potential for bureaucratic abuse that led to the 1997 and 1998 hearings."

In a separate chapter in Issues 2000, the Heritage Foundation's Peter Sperry criticizes the federal government's spending of taxpayers' money "on an ever-broadening array of projects. It preempts so many roles once effectively filled by local government, the family, religious organizations, and the private sector," says Sperry, "that it is doing few -- if any -- of them well. Worse, it is failing to fulfill even its core responsibilities capably and effectively."

Sperry complains that "politicians exaggerate nonexistent or trivial problems to justify new programs or pour more funds into existing ones favored by special interests." He also criticizes the Washingtonian tendency to make "a federal case out of every conceivable problem" and to perpetuate the putative solutions, "funding obsolete programs, morphing missions, and building bureaucracy."

Sperry argues that "America is entering the new century more prosperous, highly productive, and basically content. Most Americans enjoy and take pride in filling their own needs. Religious and civic organizations in local communities continue to provide assistance to those who need help. . . . The only services Americans really desire from their duly elected federal leaders," he contends, "are national security, an efficient judicial system, and a sound foreign policy -- none of which is being delivered well."

Sperry calls for "a new vision of federalism based on sound principles." He worries that a bloated national government "undermines freedom and prosperity. Policymakers must restructure the federal government," he advises, "so that it can focus on its core responsibilities and perform them well." Sperry also calls for budget accountability. "The federal budget contains over 1,500 line items to fund 19 broad budget function categories," he remarks. "The sloppy and unaccountable federal budget process supports a government full of redundant, obsolete, and overlapping programs at the same time it hides waste, fraud, and abuse." Sperry recommends that budget surpluses be devoted to tax cuts, that spending decisions be devolved to state and local governments wherever possible, and that "middle-class entitlements and corporate welfare" be discontinued.

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