Are Tax Cuts Inspirational?
Rudy Giuliani has issued a new television ad, in which he promises, with stirring – perhaps almost inspirational – music in the background, to cut taxes. No, not simply to cut taxes, but to cut them by “trillions of dollars.” “[O]n his first day in office,” in fact, he “will send Congress the largest tax cut in American history.” For all the dramatic music, the bold words “trillions of dollars” on the screen, and Giuliani’s obvious excitement about the possibility, however, I was somehow left unmoved.
Perhaps that isn’t especially surprising, given my general attitudes about society’s obligations to open doors of opportunity for those without opportunities, and to support those of its members in need. But do those who disagree with me actually respond differently to a promise to introduce “the largest tax cut in American history”? Does introducing such a tax represent a stirring moment in American history? Will American elementary school students one day study Washington’s refusal to stand for another term, Lincoln’s Gettysburg’s Address, Roosevelt’s address to Congress following Pearl Harbor, and Giuliani’s massive tax cut?
More seriously, it’s hard to imagine that the inspirational quality of tax cuts is about (the possibility of) a higher growth rate in the economy. Significant as the latter is, I don’t see many folks crying about it. Is it just about having more money in one’s pocket on April 16th? Surely some, with desperate needs, might find such savings to be intensely felt. But just as surely, everyone knows by now that tax cuts in the “trillions of dollars” aren’t about those with such desperate needs.
It’s possible, I suppose, that “tax cuts” are today a kind of short hand for individual freedom and liberty. They’re what Tom Paine would talking about, if he were alive today and trying to get people excited about his notions of governing best by governing least. But can tax cuts really stand in as an effective rhetorical substitute for freedom and liberty? Wouldn’t Giuliani do better to tell us exactly why “the largest tax cut in American history” would be so exciting?