George Lakoff, Where Are You Now?

(A previous version of this article appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle.)

How times have changed. The budget deficit is on track to be a trillion dollars year for the next 10 years, and the Left is as pleased as punch. Yet only a few years ago when the budget deficit was a few hundred billion, they went ballistic. They feigned concern over the burden on future generations. If we don’t take care of it now, they repeatedly warned, then our children and grandchildren will pay for it later.

They called it the baby tax. In trying to better connect with voters, the Democratic leadership tried out the old standby of re-labeling things. Back in 2005 they heeded the advice of George Lakoff, a Berkeley professor of linguistics and cognitive sciences, who recommended calling the Bush budget deficit a baby tax.

George Lakoff, where are you now?

The Left’s acquiescence to today’s trillion-dollar deficits has exposed how insincere they were about their earlier “baby tax” rhetoric. Higher taxes, whether it be on today’s generation or future generations, are just fine with them.

Money to pay down the budget deficit comes from income taxes. The rich pay most of the income taxes: the top 1 percent of earners pay about 40 percent of all income taxes, the top 10 percent pay around 70 percent, and the top 50 percent pay in the neighborhood of 97 percent. If higher taxes on present-day rich people do not bother Democrats, why should higher taxes on future rich people bother them?

In fact, many if not most Democrats think higher taxes on the rich are a good thing. So in this sense, a Democrat might consider a budget deficit to be desirable, since it means higher taxes on the wealthy people of tomorrow.

Another strike against the Left’s baby tax credibility is that, while they used to purport to care about the future tax burden of our babies, they rarely give a hoot about the tax burden of yesterday’s babies: us. In addition to paying for the budget deficits of past years, today’s workers – mainly higher-income ones – are paying for the government spending going on right now.

If the those on the left really were concerned about the future tax burden of our babies – rich ones, poor ones, and middle-class ones alike – then they’d be joining the tea parties in droves. Obviously, they aren’t.

If and when we get a president again who wants to cut taxes across the board, and the Left starts to howl “baby tax”, don’t believe them for a minute.

Patrick Chisholm is editor of PolicyDynamics.

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