On Friday, Rand Paul blasted President Obama’s plan to make tuition to community college free. He offered an alternative, “Let’s make college tuition entirely deductible.”
“So that the children of rich people can finally get some advantages in life?” Vox’s Marry Yglesias tweeted.
Paul’s idea directly contradicts his flat tax plan — which would explode the deficit and likely cut taxes for the rich while raising them for everyone else — but sounds good because it came from the West Wing.
The truth is — as Yglesias pointed out — Paul’s “plan” would only benefit people who pay taxes, which Mitt Romney pointed out is only 53 percent of the country. Most working class families — the families Obama’s plan actually helps — wouldn’t be helped at all.
What Paul is actually proposing is that we add another cost to the most costly part of the American budget: tax expenditures, which cost us more than a trillion dollars a year.
Why does the right wing hate spending and love tax expenditures?
Well, many of them — like the mortgage interest deductions for second homes, the yacht tax deduction, business meal deductions… — help the rich, who by definition cannot be “takers,” since they donate to Republican campaigns. Besides, helping the rich write off a two lobster lunch makes them inspired but feeding the poor makes them lazy.
Expenditures also help hide how much people are helped by the government, thus shrinking confidence in public programs, making it easier to drain the good it does for working people.
Comforting the comfortable and afflicting the afflicted is Rand Paul’s theme, despite some good stands on the drug war and government surveillance. As president, he wouldn’t just reverse the civil rights movement, he’d get a chance to promote the central libertarian fallacy that the government could help the poor by doing less.
Unburdened by government aid for food, school and health care poor Americans would burst forth out of poverty. This is the central libertarian lie that has never worked anywhere ever. Almost every advanced country in the world treats the poor better than the United States by giving them money.
Getting the government out of the economy leaves the economy at the mercy of corporations, which exist to make shareholders, rich people, richer.
The truth is America does spend a lot on social benefits — more than any country besides France.
We just do it in the least effective ways.
Much of our social spending comes in the form of tax breaks, which are designed to help those who are better off. Thus the good the government does exists largely in a “submerged state” that allows people like Rand Paul to pretend the government is only holding you back from the massive windfalls of freedom. (Notably, two programs that work most directly to provide benefits to all Americans — Medicare and Social Security — are the two the right is most obsess with undoing. Mostly because they work and make people feel good about paying taxes. Paul would like to privatize both immediately. )
“In contrast, many European governments give services or cash benefits directly to their citizens, but then take some of that money back by taxing those cash benefits, or the person’s spending more generally,” The Washington Post‘s Ana Swanson writes in a summary of a policy brief from the Peterson Institute of International economics that explains how we spend more helping our citizens and get less than other countries
European politics generally are not weighed down by the insistence of one of its major party and much of its business community waging a constant war to discredit government.
Conservatives’ twin desires to hide the benefits they rake in through tax breaks and keep millions uninsured are the main reasons we have a deficit at all.
You know that every other industrialized country in the nation covers all of its citizens with insurance for about half or less than we spend per person on health insurance. And most of them get better results.
Covering more people actually saves money. Economists projections for health spending the near future are $2.6 trillion LOWER than they were before Obamacare became law.
This misery is by design. Conservatives need government benefits to be hidden so taxpayers won’t fear cuts. And they need a deficit to justify the cuts.
Conservatives say they want smaller government. But what they really want are bigger corporations and bigger tax breaks that hide just how much they depend on the government.