Oct 12

Issue: Culture RSS

Should we keep the Bush tax cuts?

Posted 3 years, 6 months ago.


Publius 2.0 is disheartened that Congress has adjourned until after the elections without dealing with the tax issue. Should the Bush-era tax cuts be extended for all – the rich and the middle-class alike – as the Republicans and some Democrats contend? Or is it wiser, as President Obama maintains, to let the wealthiest Americans pay more, so as not to add yet more untold billions to the budget deficit?

Like most Americans, Publius 2.0 can quickly calculate what’s best for him, but what’s best for the country? It’s impossible for Publius 2.0 to say. He can barely balance a check-book, much less calculate what will make the economy hum once again. Besides, he’s been reading the Federalist, not Milton Friedman or John Maynard Keynes.

Interfering interests form the principal task of modern legislation.

That’s why Publius 2.0 was especially pleased this week to find James Madison, in Federalist Number 10, reflecting on the clash of economic interests in society:

[T]he most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views. The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government.

Publius 2.0 is forced to conclude that Congress has decamped without performing the “principal task of modern legislation” – to take account of the partial views of competing interest groups and enact tax legislation that is best for our ailing economy.

So here’s today’s question: Whose fault is that? Perhaps it’s true that Congress is so beholden to Wall Street and other “factions” (to use Madison’s word) that they are incapable of legislating for the common good. But what about us? We get the government we elect. In looking out for our own economic interests, do we fail to elect representatives capable of acting for the good of the country?

Every Tuesday and Thursday, Publius 2.0 will offer a modern take on the Federalist Papers. See the rest of the series here.