Last week, Mitt Romney had some kind of weird brain freeze and accidentally stumbled into agreement with President Obama on the fact that entrepreneurs actually do benefit from the efforts of other people, and even get help from the government. You may have heard about it, as a number of bloggers took note. But there was something else he said that was even more interesting, and I wanted to point it out because we do seem to be having a discussion about the fundamentals of capitalism and government. It sounded extemporaneous, so perhaps Romney didn't think through the full implications of it, but here's what he said:
There are a lot of people in government who help us and allow us to have an economy that works and allow entrepreneurs and business leaders of various kinds to start businesses and create jobs. We all recognize that. That's an important thing. Don't forget, by the way, government doesn't invent those people out of thin air. We pay for those people with our taxes! We're paying for those resources that we receive.
This was greeted with enthusiastic applause from the crowd, as though Romney had really connected with a zinger at those big-government liberals. But whether he realized it or not, Romney was really making the liberal case for taxes.
The point is this: Yes, we pay for government. Our taxes fund things like roads and bridges and courts and police and clean air and water, all those things that "allow us to have an economy that works." That's why we need taxes. Much of the time, conservatives talk about taxes as though they don't actually fund anything useful, or maybe anything at all; it's money government steals from you and tosses into some black hole in Washington. If it funds anything, it's "spending," which by never being specified is just money that disappears. That's why conservatives are happy to tell you up and down that they want to "cut spending," while being terrified of telling you just what it is they want to cut.
I hope Mitt picks up on his point about our tax dollars funding the good things government does and keeps repeating it. But somehow I doubt he will.