To an economist, some policy proposals sound like fingernails being dragged down a chalkboard. That cringe-making scritch, scritch, sccrriittch came through loud and clear this week, as each of the Presidential hopefuls made awful tax-related panders.
On the left side of the chalkboard was the pledge made by both Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama during their debate in Philadelphia not to raise taxes on middle class families.
Sen. Clinton: I am absolutely committed to not raising a single tax on middle- class Americans, people making less than $250,000 a year.
Sen. Obama: I not only have pledged not to raise their taxes, I've been the first candidate in this race to specifically say I would cut their taxes.
So the Democrats have joined Sen. McCain in making wildly irresponsible income-tax pledges. The federal government is currently running an enormous deficit and faces exploding entitlement costs for its old-age medical and retirement programs. To that, Senators Clinton and Obama would each add huge new health insurance schemes, while Sen. McCain would extend our costly involvement in Iraq.
The tax pledges are inconsistent with these other promises. Moreover, the tax pledges are inconsistent with the candidate's previous positions. So the voters now need to decide what each of them is lying about--their tax pledge, their commitments to narrowing the budget deficit, or their other big-ticket spending items.
On the right side of the chalkboard was the other whopper of a tax pander by Sen. McCain, who introduced legislation to rescind the federal gasoline tax over the summer.
The federal government already acts as an enabler to the country's gasoline addiction, subsidizing producers and setting the gas tax pitifully low. Sen. McCain's "solution" to the nation's gasoline binging and its accompanying environmental, economic, and national security problems would be to lower gas prices by 18 cents a gallon. However, this would only make the addiction worse, while adding to the deficit.
Instead of pandering to the public, the Presidential candidates need to show leadership, which begins by explaining the tough budget and energy problems that we face.
Somewhere Paul Tsongas is weeping.