There is a word that describes a politician who promises you two things that are so contradictory there is no way both of them can happen in the real world.
That word is "dishonest."
There are times when this word applies to the people who represent our great state in Congress - such as during the current debate over deficits vs. tax cuts.
I have heard Georgia's congressmen say that the federal deficit and the national debt have become so large that they endanger America's future security.
Here's how Sen. Saxby Chambliss expressed it last summer:
"One of the most dangerous threats confronting America today doesn't come from without, but from within. And I'm talking about our national debt... . At a time when many Americans are clipping coupons and pinching pennies, President Obama and the Democrats in Congress continue to spend money that they - we - do not have.
"Three weeks ago, America's national debt topped $13 trillion. And let me say that one more time: $13 trillion is owed by the United States of America today. That number is so big it's difficult to comprehend."
Rep. Tom Price of Roswell said this "explosion of debt... threatens to destroy any hope of sustained job creation and economic growth" and must be reduced "if we hope to pass on a strong America to our children."
Rep. Lynn Westmoreland of Coweta County declared that it's time for Congress to "get serious about paying off the national debt."
Chambliss, Price, Westmoreland and the other members of Georgia's congressional delegation are correct to express such worry about the size of the national debt. The country's indebtedness should be brought under control so that our grandchildren and great-grandchildren don't get stuck with paying the bills that our generation runs up.
At the same time they are expressing such concern about the national debt, however, our guys in Congress are also saying that we've got to extend the Bush tax breaks for wealthy Americans that are set, by law, to expire on Dec. 31.
"One of my top priorities in the Senate is to make these tax cuts permanent," Sen. Johnny Isakson said recently. "I will do everything I can to see that we take action."
Here is the problem: extending the Bush tax cuts will add quite a lot to our long-term fiscal problems. In fact, the Bush tax breaks will pile trillions of dollars onto the national debt over the next decade.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that extending all of the Bush tax cuts would add $2.7 trillion to the national debt by 2020. Extending these tax breaks just for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans, as Georgia's congressmen want to do, would add an estimated $830 billion alone to the national debt over that same period.
Our congressmen have a choice to make on this. Do they really want to start reducing the country's huge debt load? Or would they rather extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans?
You can do one or you can do the other. You can't do both.
If our congressmen really think it's important to continue cutting taxes for Americans, including the wealthiest 2 percent who make up the top income levels, then they should vote to do that.
But when they vote to extend those tax cuts, they are voting to drive the country even further into debt, because the cost of those tax cuts will amount to nearly $3 trillion over the next decade. If you vote for the tax breaks, you're being a hypocrite to keep expressing false concerns about the national debt.
I would guess that our representatives in Congress think tax breaks are more important than reducing the federal debt. That's an issue that is worthy of a spirited debate over the next two years.
But it is deeply dishonest for an elected member of Congress to say that we have to take action to reduce the national debt at the same time that he is supporting tax cuts that will make the debt level deeper and more intractable.
You can do one or you can do the other. You can't do both. Our politicians owe it to us to start being honest about this.
(Tom Crawford is the editor of The Georgia Report, an Internet news service at gareport.com.)
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