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You might think of a tax break as allowing you to keep more of your own money. That’s not how Beltway types see it. When they talk of “tax expenditures,” they are operating on the assumption that all wealth belongs to the government first. When the president says the country is “spending” money on tax breaks, he speaks as if the dollar in your pocket got there not through your hard work – but through his generosity.
Well, one could say, in a democracy everyone has a say in our government, so we are all in some sense the owners of the shoe company. So cutting taxes really does “cost” us in that sense. You keep telling yourself that, Vladimir Ilyitch. Most people who go into a shoe store think about the price on the tag, not the Nike stock in their 401(k).
So perhaps Ryan should have said something like this: “Tax cuts don’t cost money — they save money. Government spending is what costs money. If you think cutting taxes costs money, then you must think raising taxes saves money. By that logic, a 100 percent tax rate would mean Washington isn’t spending anything at all. And that, my friend, is absurd.”