THE BEAST ONLY...

THE BEAST ONLY GROWS HUNGRIER. Maybe I'm just dense, but did we really need a serious academic paper to explain that when conservatives cut taxes, government doesn't necessarily shrink? After all, a quick glance at George W. Bush's tenure reveals a nice pattern of massive tax cuts tilted towards the rich followed by huge entitlement expansions meant to win back favor amongst the middle class -- he's a don't-tax but still-spend conservative. And that's not even getting into Iraq, which has been funded almost entirely through so-called "emergency" appropriations, the main virtue of which is that they're not factored into budget estimates. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad to see the starve-the-beast theory abandoned, it just seems strange that the obvious evidence of the past few decades wasn't, on its own, more than enough to make the case. It is interesting, though, that the study's author flags taxation at 19 percent of GDP as the magic number at which government becomes too expensive to grow but not so prohibitively costly as to be shrunk.

--Ezra Klein

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