English Only, Please

Congress has never met a dollar it didn't like to spend. And the budget just passed in Congress ensures that it will soon meet plenty of new dollars pouring into Washington. But like young lovers trysting on the sly to avoid their parents, Congress is trying to avoid letting taxpayers know what it's really up to. In today's anti-tax climate, Congress is sensitive to any talk about raising taxes. So the new budget is advertised as a deficit-reduction package. Sure, it raises a few taxes here and there, we're told. But it also contains substantial spending cuts. Yet according to Daniel Mitchell of the Heritage Foundation, the so-called spending cuts are nothing you or I would recognize as such. Many of them are really increases in various fees and taxes. For example, when you visit a national park, you probably pay about $5 to get in. That's a user fee. If the government increases that to $10, is that a spending cut? Of course not. An increase in user fees is an increase in how much money the government takes out of your pocket. And yet the list of spending cuts in the budget includes increases in user fees for national parks, for customs, and for irrigation, to name just a few. Let me be specific: Some of the spending cuts listed are $214 million from increased aircraft registration taxes; $345 million from increased patent and trademark user fees; more than $1 billion from Nuclear Regulatory Commission user fees; more than $600 million of Veterans Home Loan fees. Now, there's nothing wrong with user fees per se; they simply mean that when government provides a service, then the person who uses the service is the one who pays for it. But they are not, by any stretch of the imagination, spending cuts. And to call them cuts is nothing short of deception. Anyone who has ever balanced a household budget knows that when you spend more than you earn, you must either cut spending or increase your income. The same applies to government. To reduce the massive federal deficit, the government must either cut spending or increase its revenue through fees and taxes. The first alternative—cutting spending—seems to be beyond the power of Congress. Which leaves the second alternative: raising fees and taxes. But that would be political suicide. So what's a politician to do? Simply re-label fee increases as spending cuts. It seems we could do with an "English Only" law over at the Capitol building. The language used by members of Congress sometimes bears little resemblance to the language spoken outside the Washington Beltway. You and I know what a spending cut is: It means we stop spending so much money. But inside the Beltway, the definitions of even the simplest terms have become clouded and confused. Christians need to make it clear that we want political leaders with the integrity to let their yes mean yes, and their no mean no, as Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount. And with the will and the courage to just say no to federal spending.


Chuck Colson


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