But the biggest reason this is a scandal is that all the new taxes that are responsible for this massive jump in our costs are hidden in the fine print. We may have lower top line income tax rates than we did in 1961, but we have so many new taxes going to the federal government that it's hard to keep track.
Granted, some of those new taxes are for generally popular programs like Medicare and Medicaid which did not exist in 1961. And Social Security, also very popular with the voters, has imposed higher tax rates over the years.
But the ugly truth is that the trust funds where those new tax revenues were supposed to be placed aren't really trust funds. Money is siphoned from them every year to pay for other government spending. The federal government just grabs a lot of that supposedly protected cash and replaces it with IOU's.
That's a big reason why both Medicare and Social Security are in fiscal danger despite those higher tax revenues. In Washington that's okay. In the real world, we call that "bait and switch."
We can also call it a "cover up" because this robbing Peter to pay Paul practice masks the reality of our real federal debt. When the unfunded liabilities like Social Security and Medicare are factored in for real, our debt is calculated by some experts to total more like $200 trillion.
But like all scandals, at least this news provides some clarity. The reason why I and some other conservatives are focusing on comparisons to Kennedy's years in office is because he was the most important Democrat to ever push for and explain the need for tax cuts. And because he was a Democrat, there's been a very long-running political debate in America about the Kennedy tax cuts and their enduring lessons for us today. When Kennedy was president, he made a strong case for cutting taxes to boost the economy. And it worked.
When President Reagan proposed cutting taxes in 1981, he insisted on using JFK's arguments in the effort. Then-presidential staffers like Larry Kudlow and Art Laffer took the lead in promoting that view. Yet liberals argued that tax rates were so high during President Kennedy's day that his call to cut them was only relative, and the Democratic icon would never advocate tax cuts in 1981 or today.