Economists prefer spending cuts over tax hikes; Democrats should soft peddle idea of tax increases and stress streamlining programs and point out Republicans want to gut Social Security and Medicare

Well here’s something handed to the Republicans on a silver platter: A news story I just read said that the majority of economists in a survey favor spending cuts over tax increases to deal with the nation’s deficit, that is for dealing with the national debt. A majority also see containment of Medicare and Medicaid as the first steps for reductions.

The Democrats have taken the position that a combination of spending cuts and tax increases are what is needed. I kind of thought that myself, not that I would be a fan of tax increases (who would? Except Warren Buffet and Bill Clinton), but I figured that the national debt is so huge that it would take increased taxes at some level to get to the principal, rather than just paying interest.

I also think I read that the Republicans want to restore the payroll tax to where it was before president Obama cut it to help consumers (or the middle class; everyone is middle class, you know). Just as Republicans would call lifting what was supposed to be a temporary tax cut for the wealthy a tax increase, the Democrats I think are calling lifting the cut in payroll taxes a tax increase.

Let’s not quibble folks; If you have to pay more taxes than you did before, it is a tax increase. And I guess the lesson is that if a law is on the books it is not temporary, it is reality, until it is repealed, that is.

Governments are not individuals, but it is hard to understand how a government that spends more than it takes in can deal with its debt, except a government as powerful as the U.S. has a lot of leverage, or at least has had.

I’m not sure that calling for tax increases, even if it makes sense, is a good campaign strategy for the Democrats, to include Obama in his bid for re-election. I remember Walter Mondale vowing to raise taxes and saying that the only difference between him and his opponent was that he, Mondale, was honest in saying he would raise taxes. Honesty is not always the best policy in politics, that is if you want to get elected.

Ronald Reagan beat Mondale in a landslide and while he did cut taxes at one point, he also raised taxes at many other points. He actually increased government spending overall. But to be fair, a lot of that spending was for defense and it could be argued that it led to the ultimate demise of our arch nemesis, the Soviet Union (ironically that nation bankrupted itself on defense and offense, I would call it, spending, to include getting bogged down in Afghanistan, where we –the U.S.– find ourselves today). Reagan, probably was not so much a conservative as he was a centrist, but he knew how to appeal to conservatives and his own persona allowed him to get away with a lot, so much so, that he was called the “Teflon president”.

So poor Mondale was right — Reagan did raise taxes even though campaigning as a tax cutter (sometimes it is not what is said, but who says it). Being right does not necessarily win you the election.

I would not propose that Democrats lie about their position on taxes, though. I would think it better, however, to stress revamping of programs to make them more efficient and probably tightening up eligibility standards for some entitlements. They should also warn folks that the Republicans are looking to eliminate as many social programs as they can. A lot of folks who consider themselves conservative, or tea baggers too, pause when they realize their Social Security and government health benefits are on the chopping block.

On the other hand, if the Republicans keep shooting themselves in the foot with their Looney candidates, maybe anything or anyone can beat them — they’re beating themselves so far, even among their own faithful, news reports indicate.

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The story on the economists I referred to is at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/22/taxes-cuts-economists_n_932697.html

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