Published January 1995 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd Caution: Fiscal Rapids Ahead!
Since earliest times, people have questioned the use of their taxes and have resisted tax increases.
Little wonder that any suggestion of the reduction, cancellation, or reformulation of any tax is generally greeted with an initial burst of enthusiasm.
The truth is, however, that, without revenues supplied by taxes, governments cannot afford the services virtually demanded by citizens – national defense, law enforcement, schools, highways and transportation, Social Security benefits, many health services, and more.
In the early 1980's, in allegiance to so-called "supply-side" economic theories, a massive tax reduction was pushed through Congress by the administration then in power, without adequate attention to the overall impact of that tax reduction and without a parallel reduction in programs favored by most Americans. At the same time, the administration launched the most far-reaching defense buildup in American history.
Unfortunately, the result was the $4.5-trillionplus national debt that now plagues our country and threatens to burden rising generations of Americans for decades to come with heavy interest payments on the debt.
More ominously, currently, voices in both national political parties are attempting to outdo one another in promising tax cuts.
In order to pay for these tax cuts, the President has already put forward a plan, with few details, for federal program cuts.
I anticipate that, in coming weeks, the fever for a tax cut will generate a landslide in Congress of proposed spending cuts and program consolidations, with little thought given to either the impact that tax reductions will have on reducing the federal debt or the havoc that will be wrought on every program from defense and police protection to air-traffic safety and educational quality nationwide.
Wisdom suggests that, for the foreseeable future, money from any federal spending cuts ought to be applied to whittling down our crushing multi-trillion dollar national debt. Wisdom also suggests that program cuts be made with a surgeon's scalpel instead of an ax, lest we literally cut off our noses to spite our faces in the process.
Certainly, the time has come to put our national fiscal house in order.
Such reordering, however, requires intelligence and vision, not demagoguery and mindlessness.
January 11, 1995