Paul Hampton

They’re all politicians. That’s why we’re so deep in debt.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, left, leads applause for House Ways and Means Chair Rep. Kevin, Rep. Carlos Curbelo and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers during a news conference following a vote on the GOP tax plan on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thursday.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, left, leads applause for House Ways and Means Chair Rep. Kevin, Rep. Carlos Curbelo and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers during a news conference following a vote on the GOP tax plan on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thursday. AP File

The best I can determine only one Republican voted against the tax plan in the House because he worried about how much it would add to the national debt.

“I’m all for tax reform, but it must grow the economy, not the debt,” Northern Carolina Rep. Walter Jones posted to his website. “Unfortunately, the tax bill voted on today would be financed not by cutting spending elsewhere in the budget, but by adding up to $2 trillion to America’s debt.”

Now, if you are alive and kicking and have been working hard you know there is an acceptable amount of debt. I once borrowed money for our house even though I was suspicious of a bank that would hand over that much money to me. Since then I have had loans to pay for cars and minivans and I’ve had credit card debt. Within a couple of years, barring any unforeseen events, I could be debt-free. Which means I expect an unforeseen event any day.

This makes me fiscally responsible. And unfit to serve in Congress.

To serve in Congress, I’d have to be able to say I was fiscally responsible with a straight face after voting for a tax plan that will add a boatload of debt. If I were that fine an actor, I’d head to Hollywood. To get to D.C., I’d have to proclaim myself a conservative and propose a constitutional amendment to balance the budget after voting year after year to raise the debt ceiling (because, you know, I didn’t have any other choice).

The national debt has risen fastest in the times of national crisis: World War II, the wars in the Middle East, the Great Recession.

This is no crisis. Look at the Fortune 500. Those companies collectively earned profits of 6 percent (or $890 billion), according to Fortune.com. Apple, the No. 1 company on the list, is so rattled about the economy it released a $1,000 smartphone this year. Yep times are tough in the corporate world. Far as I can tell, the only danger is the economy could get too hot.

But you’ll hear Congress tell you that a massive corporate tax cut is necessary to get the economy rolling again. They insist that all that holds the economy back is high taxes and if the richest people in America had more money they’d invest it and create more jobs.

Except, they don’t. The tax bill is supposed to lure to the U.S. the almost $3 trillion in corporate profits squirreled away overseas by U.S. companies. It’s been tried before. In 2004. It worked. At least it brought some of those profits. Which the companies promptly used to buy back their own stock, not create jobs.

But, but, they say, you’ll get a tax cut, too.

Best I can tell, if the House tax cut becomes law as is (Spoiler Alert: It won’t), I’d get a tax cut of about $1,000 a year. Which means if I stash it, in 60 odd years, I’d have enough to pay off my share of the national debt. (More than $60,000 at the end of last year.) What a present for my 123rd birthday.

Since 2012, the national debt has been larger than the gross domestic profit. It has been headed in that direction for years. Since the first year of President Ronald Reagan’s presidency. The debt as percent of GDP took off in the age of trickle-down economics. And the current plans look suspiciously similar.

In short, tax cuts won’t grow us out of our debt.

But passing cuts and saying just wait is much easier than telling the truth and reining in government spending — all government spending.

Wondering what Congress will do? I don’t.

Paul Hampton: 228-284-7296, @JPaulHampton

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