At a jolly party in New York Friday, I met and chatted with an intelligent chap from one of those big, scary financial firms that the media likes to demonize. After a few sighting pleasantries to gauge each other’s level of political maturity, we got down to business and discussed the disaster that is the Obama administration’s record on the economy. I have rehearsed it here so many times that I hate to drag it out once again. But the truth is, this administration is so ostentatiously irresponsible that if one only waits a few months, things are already a lot worse than when one last looked. This summer, the federal debt was approaching the historic, utterly incomprehensible figure of $16 trillion. Now it’s eying $16.5 trillion. (Remember back in the early 1980s when Ronald Reagan faced — and helped face down — a federal debt of $1 trillion?)
A number like 16.5 trillion is incomprehensible not only because of its sheer size — Reagan, in an image of characteristic genius, pointed out that a $1 trillion stack of thousand-dollar bills would be 67 miles high — but also because of the potential, gestating misery that amount of debt contains. What that debt will do to the poor, to the retired, to the nation’s military prowess, to the very fabric of our society: those are incalculable things. And remember, the federal debt is only something like 11 or 12 percent of the country’s total unfunded liabilities. We are, as Mark Steyn likes to point out, the brokest country in history.
Well, my new friend and I spoke mournfully about these and related matters. We finally got around to the question of “fairness” and taxation. I mentioned Steve Moore’s great book, Who’s the Fairest of Them All? The Truth about Opportunity, Taxes, and Wealth in America, which I published at Encounter Books last fall. Is it fair, for example, that the top 1 percent of tax filers pay nearly 40 percent of the tax receipts, or that the top 5 percent pay some 60 percent of the income tax receipts? Is it fair that approximately 47% of tax filers pay NO FEDERAL INCOME TAX AT ALL? Is that fair?
I have hard thoughts about such matters, especially at this time of the year when I huddle with my accountant to figure out how much more money the government will be robbing from my family to pay for Obama’s vacations and kindred exercises in fiscal imprudence.