Seven years and four months ago, President George W. Bush signed the second greatest tax cutting bill in American history, setting off the biggest spending joy-ride we have ever experienced. Savings dropped, credit card debt soared, and most everybody thought it would last forever. Six years, nine months, and seventeen days later, J.P. Morgan and the U.S. Treasury bailed out Bear Stearns, and it was apparent that the joy-ride was over.
That's close enough to seven years to remind me of something I wrote on my old blog, "Me & Ted Against the World", just after the tax bill was passed. Though not a religious man myself, I realized that many in the new Republican administration and in Congress were deeply devoted to the Bible, and I thought that perhaps an argument based on the Bible might convince them that the tax cut was imprudent, and they should repeal it.
I took my text from Genesis, chapter 41, verses 14 through 57, Joseph's exaltation in Egypt, for George Bush had come unto Washington with a large surplus, and he dreamed that because of it he could cut taxes. In Genesis 41, the Pharaoh has dream -- you know, the seven fat cows, the seven skinny cows, and he didn't understand it. And then came the seven good ears of corn, and the seven thin ears of corn. So, on the recommendation of his chief butler, the Pharaoh reached out to Joseph and asked Joseph what was the meaning of his, the Pharaoh's, dreams.
And Joseph explained the dreams, saying to Pharaoh: "What God is supposed to do he showeth unto Pharaoh. Behold, there comes seven years of great plenty throughout the land of Egypt: And there shall arise after them seven years of famine; and all the plenty shall be forgotten in the land of Egypt; and the famine shall consume the land... it shall be very grievous."
And Joseph said: "Let Pharaoh appoint officers over the land, and take the fifth part of the land of Egypt in the seven plenteous years. And let them gather all the food of those good years that come, and lay up corn under the hand of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities. And that food shall be for store to the land against the seven years of famine, which shall be in the land of Egypt; that the land perish not through the famine."
Ignoring the biblical language, and translating Joseph's recommendation into ordinary English, Joseph said set a tax of 20% on all of Egypt's GDP and save it for the bad years. So that when, "the seven years of plenteousness, that was in the land of Egypt, were ended. And the seven years of dearth began to come...and the dearth was in all lands; but in all the land of Egypt there was bread...And Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold unto the Egyptians;...all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn..."
So, by virtue of the Pharaoh's 20% levy, Egypt became the breadbasket and the superpower of the ancient Middle East. When all the world was in deficit, Egypt had a surplus.
By contrast, over the last seven years the U.S. natural debt has almost doubled, rising from five point seven trillion dollars to ten and a half trillion dollars now. It is expected to exceed eleven trillion by the time President Bush leaves office.
It is said that even the Devil may quote scripture, and when in 2001 I cited scripture on my website, I did not expect even the most Evangelical of politicians to take it seriously. Of course, they did not. Looking back now, after our digital boomlet bust, and our housing bubble burst, it is easy to say that we should have raised taxes during our times of "plenteousness". We didn't, and now the wisest economists in both our parties tell us that we cannot raise taxes in a recession -- it would be "counter productive".
In the Bible, God sent Pharaoh a dream, instructing him to appropriate one-fifth of all Egyptian produce and store it for the coming famine. That's a twenty percent tax-hike. Unfortunately, George W. Bush was, and so far as I know, still is, a prisoner of the "American Dream", that the free market will make us all rich and solve all of our problems. Now, in our time of need, our store house is empty and our only remedy is to keep the presses printing greenbacks. Those of us who do not sink under the coming depression, will wither under the burden of the coming inflation.
Since we didn't raise taxes in 2001, our time of surplus, and the wisest economists in both our parties say we can't raise taxes now, as we face a depression; how will we ever be able manage our growing-by-$3.87-billion-a-day* national debt? We're stuck between a rock and a hard place. Maybe we should've listened to the Bible?
* See U.S. National Debt Clock, http://www.brillig.com/debt_clock/