By Don C. Reed
What is the connection between an elephant and the national debt? Before I get to that, I want to make absolutely clear that the financial expert quoted in the article has no connection with me or my writing. I just came across her testimony on tax cuts and thought it was brilliant. I shortened it, and also provided a URL where you can read the whole thing. Any errors are my own.
Now, on to the pachyderm!
I was once picked up by a teenage elephant.
Her name was Judy and I had entered her pen with the trainer’s approval. “She’s in a good mood,” he said.
I was a professional scuba diver at Marine World Africa USA, in Redwood City, California, from 1972-86, and that afternoon I had my wetsuit on.
Unfortunately, I also had a spare pair of rubber diver’s shoes (called booties) under my arm. Judy touched me all over with her trunk in case I was hiding an apple or a carrot somewhere. She found one of the booties– and put it in her mouth.
“No, elephant, don’t eat my shoe!”, I said.
Judy got angry. She spit out the shoe, lifted me with her great head, and tossed me like a toy. I landed on my back, rolled out of the pen; the trainer controlled her with a shouted command– and that was the end of our relationship.
But I have never forgotten the strength of that half-grown animal. She did not harm me, but the strength was vast,
To me, the national debt is like that power, only more so, which could do whole nations irreparable harm.
But I am not an economist? Quite right! And some would say I have no business offering opinions on the national debt.
I disagree. The problem is too big to be decided by a tiny subset of experts.
How big? According to Federal statistics, America is now $34 trillion in debt, roughly $100,000 for every man, woman and child in America. (1)
We need an “all hands on deck” approach. We can educate ourselves, listen to genuine experts,, and know at least a little about the threat we face.
Where did it come from? The reason we have such an enormous national debt is due to the tax cuts of two Republican Presidents. Let me say that again:
Two Republican Presidents gave us the national debt: George W. Bush and Donald J. Trump. Before them, we basically did not have a national debt. (2)
But, they argue, tax cuts are good for the economy. Are they? Listen to the testimony of a genuine expert, Sara Jacoby. Please note: for reasons of clarity, I have shortened her remarks. Errors are mine…Don C. Reed
The following is drawn from the Testimony of Samantha Jacoby, senior tax legal analyst, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Senate Committee on Budget: May 17, 2023 (1).
“After decades of costly, regressive, and ineffective tax cuts, a new course (is) needed.
“…tax cuts enacted in the last 25 years– in 2001 and 2003 under President Bush, as well as those enacted in 2017 under President Trump— gave (huge financial benefits) to households in the top 1% as well as to…large corporations; greatly increasing wealth inequality.
“These tax cuts cost significant federal revenue, adding to the national debt and limiting our ability to invest in policies that contribute to shared prosperity.
“Extending the Trump tax cuts that expire at the end of 2025 will mostly benefit the already well-off. If not paid for, these will add (much) to the nation’s long term fiscal challenges.
“…extending (these tax cuts) would benefit households in the top 1% more than twice as much as those in the bottom 60%… providing a roughly $41,000 annual tax cut for the top 1% compared to just $500 for households in the bottom 60%….
“This would cost around $300 billion per year.
“It would be in addition to the large benefits high-income households would continue to receive from the 2017 tax laws permanent provisions.
“Instead of more of these failed… Bush/ Trump tax cuts, policymakers should set a new course… reconsidering the large tax breaks for high-income/high-wealth households.
“Doing so would … raise substantial revenues that could be used to address the nation’s long term fiscal challenges…
“This approach stands in stark contrast to the House Republican (approach) which would force deep cuts in a host of national priorities, leave more people hungry, homeless, and without health coverage: and (by cutting the budget for IRS staff) make it easier for wealthy people to cheat on their taxes…(2)