John Stossel
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The political class predicted "disaster" if Congress didn't raise its debt limit.

I think that was a scam to get more money. See, the poor politicians don't have enough, and they need to borrow more. We taxpayers are cheap. This year we'll give them only $2.2 trillion. They want to spend $3.8 trillion.

The president said if he didn't get more money, Social Security checks wouldn't go out. Why not?

With $2 trillion, they can pay Social Security, Medicare, the interest on the debt and still have billions left. It's billions more than the government spent when President George W. Bush took office. What's the problem?

The problem is that Republicans and Democrats under Bush and President Obama doubled spending. Now, Obama wants more taxes.

Taxes shouldn't be the answer when spending is the problem.

Grover Norquist, who heads Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), leads the charge to keep the focus on spending. Norquist and ATR are famous for asking officeholders and candidates to sign a pledge not to raise taxes. Some say he is the reason the debt-ceiling debate was so drawn out.

"I think the reason there isn't a tax increase on the table," he told me, "is that 235 members of the House of Representatives signed a pledge never to raise taxes, a pledge to their voters, and 41 senators did. ...

"Only if you take tax increases off the table do you even begin to ... focus on spending, and that's what Obama wants to keep our focus off of. He wants us to talk about the deficit, not spending."

I pointed out that Obama might have scored points with the public because new revenues he sought -- even though they wouldn't do much to shrink the deficit -- would come from closing unpopular tax "loopholes."

Norquist said he favors that -- if tax rates are lowered at the same time.

"(We) want to simplify the code," he said. "(We) want to take a lot of the goodies that politicians have laced into that code ... as long as you reduce tax rates and it's not a hidden tax increase."

Milton Friedman always said taxes don't tell the whole story. What counts is how much of our resources government spends, however it acquires them. The doubling of spending under Bush and Obama hasn't gotten enough attention.

"We need to ask what it is government should do," Norquist said. "But it's going to be knockdown, drag-out. All government overspending creates the constituency for its own perpetuation. ... Weaning people off, that is very difficult."

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John Stossel

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "No They Can't: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at >johnstossel.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. ©Creators Syndicate