Republicans have a crackpot theory, called “starve the beast“, that lowering taxes will somehow reduce the size of government.  The facts say otherwise; what cutting taxes does is balloon the deficit, and it’s perfectly compatible with ballooning spending, as George W Bush showed.

But Kevin Drum puts this in a novel way that makes a lot of sense:

If you raise taxes to pay for government programs, you’re essentially making them expensive. Conversely, if you cut taxes, you’re making government spending cheaper. So what does Econ 101 say happens when you reduce the price of something? Answer: demand for it goes up.

Cutting taxes makes government spending less expensive for taxpayers, which makes them want more of it. And politicians, obliging creatures that they are, are eager to give the people what they want. Result: lots of spending and lots of deficits.

If you want to reduce spending, the best way to do it is to raise taxes so that registered voters actually have to pay for the services they get.

So cutting taxes is precisely the wrong thing to do if what you really want is to reduce government.  You’re making big government more popular.

(Doesn’t the deficit bite us in the ass sometime?  Yes, but only sometime years in the future, which is something Americans don’t really believe in.  In practice Americans want low taxes and high spending now.  They don’t act or vote as if deficits will really have to be paid for.)

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