A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Rob and Lauren Hudson: Letter of Common Ground about taxes and spending

Letters for families based on the book “It Can Be Done” @studentsleadusa

In prior letters we wrote about how and why Americans created a large modern-day federal government. Today we ask the question of how smaller government advocates could be opposed to government growing even larger and spending more to help more people. Even before the pandemic, we racked up 23 trillion dollars of debt, a sure sign we veered off track somewhere.
As usual, there are two sides to this discussion. Some people want higher taxes and more spending, while other people want the same or lower taxes and less spending. Before we dive a little deeper, let’s set some ground rules for civility.

Assume both sides want the best system of government; one that will help the most people succeed. Try to understand both sides and don’t become angry or attack anyone. This is how thoughtful people discuss and consider matters of importance. In other words, decent people don’t blow each other up on Twitter.

Small government advocates know that government spending won’t decrease during a pandemic, but they think the “normal” we return to soon should include a plan for paying down our debt, not incurring more of it. Small government advocates believe their side of this debate turns on considering potential consequences and ethics of too much government. 

They believe they have the winning formula for how to structure a society where people work, create, and succeed. They think, for the reasons presented below, some of which we introduced in prior letters, people should come together around their formula for success.

Incentives for Good Behavior – Smaller government advocates believe the government must be careful not to take too much from its productive citizens. They reason if the government takes too much, fewer people will have a strong incentive to keep earning and working. Without incentives, fewer people will succeed in the long run.

Moral Issues of Taking from Others – Smaller government advocates argue it’s not moral for a majority to vote in favor of high levels of transfers of money, goods, and services for themselves and others. As British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once said, “Pennies don’t come from heaven, they have to be earned here on earth.” To the smaller government advocates, most help should come from private charities and volunteers. 

Dividing People – While many Americans strongly support taking money via taxes taken from one person to help another individual person, the practice can divide people. The person paying the money may not want to do it, meaning it’s against their will.  Bitterness can develop, pitting the payer against the payee, whereas voluntary charity typically brings people together.
Preserving Freedom – Smaller government advocates see high taxes as eroding the freedom to earn and the freedom to own property. They view continuous government payments to people who can work (but who don’t) as being something like socialism. Power over who works for what they receive and who gets to keep their earnings can be a form of government control over people and commerce. Regardless of one’s opinion about transfer payments, they do affect freedom and liberty.

Frost Brown Todd LLC Member Rob Hudson is a Past Chair of the Northern Kentucky Chamber and a business lawyer. 2018 Independent Author of the Year Lauren Hudson is a Singletary Scholar at the University of Kentucky. Their next letter will explore common ground about freedom and healthcare.

Debt – Is it moral for a nation of adults to spend money which will someday have to be re-paid by children who did not vote in favor of the spending and who do not, in many cases, directly benefit from it? 
More Businesses, Employers, and Employees – Starting a business is risky because you can lose all your money if the business fails. If the business owner does well, only to have to turn over most of her profits to the government, fewer people will start businesses and we will likely have fewer jobs.
Small government advocates want a framework that lifts the most people and they are not heartless capitalists. Big government advocates want a framework that lifts the most people and they are not dumb socialists. In an election season, where people who speak out face regular attacks via social media and otherwise, the rules for civility described above should be part of our new common ground.

With civility, Americans of all backgrounds will be more willing to enter the public arena.  Strength in numbers, voices, and intellect, will help us make wise, difficult decisions.


Related Posts

Leave a Comment