Dear Virginia, there are actually two Santas
The following is written acknowledging the most reprinted newspaper editorial in English, “Is There a Santa Claus?” (Sept. 21, 1897, The New York Sun). It was a response to 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon’s query to the editors: “Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?” If she were alive today, I would answer:
Not only is there a Santa Claus, there are two Santa Clauses! You are not too young to know; let me explain: I know you’ve heard Mommy and Daddy talking about politics and, judging from your letter (you mention they are “happy Joe Biden got elected”) they are Democrats. Did you know that there is a Democratic Santa Claus?
Democratic Santa Claus loves giving gifts. Let’s call him “Spending Santa.” Remember when your parents were so happy when President Obama presented the Affordable Care Act? And, now, I’m sure you are hearing about all the goodies President-elect Biden is promising: free COVID vaccines for everyone, eligibility for Medicare to age 60, forgiving some student debt, extended unemployment benefits, relief to cash-strapped states, etc.
Do you think President Trump has the same Santa Claus? No! He and Republicans have another Santa Claus! In December 2017, President Trump actually said:
“We want to give you, the American people, a giant tax cut for Christmas” when Congress passed the “The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.” President Trump’s Republican Santa likes to let people keep their money in their piggy banks instead of paying (ugh) taxes. This “Tax Cut” Santa is very popular with corporate CEOs and shareholders because corporate taxes were cut from 35% to 21%. Do your parents own stocks? I didn’t think so. But, maybe they are happy with the small drop in their taxes. If they are in the middle class they might have saved as much as $900. The people in the upper class, the “1%,” averaged about $61,000 in savings. Some people think the Trump tax cut should be called “The Shareholder and CEO Enrichment Act.”
The two Santas, the Spending Santa and the Tax Cut Santa, each have their group of fans. Now, these two Santas work together, through time, like a swinging pendulum. You know how your mom and dad sometimes discuss whether they can afford buying something, like a new car? But, like your mom and dad, over time, Spending Santa and Tax Cut Santa work things out.
Ask yourself, “What do Mom and Dad do when they don’t have enough money in their piggy bank?” You are so smart! Yes, they use their credit card or get a bank loan! That’s exactly what the two Santas do; they each borrow money to help the economy but especially to help people they each judge as nice, not naughty.
President Trump, for example, added almost $2 trillion to the national debt with his tax cut. Since Trump took office, the national debt has increased from $14 trillion to $21 trillion. In fact, if you look back on all Republican presidents in the last 40 years, you will find that they have increased the national debt by trillions of dollars. When they are in power, debt doesn’t matter. When they lose power, debt suddenly matters — a lot! Why is that? Well, let’s say Mom didn’t really want that new car Dad wanted; what she really wanted was for him to stop spending money on tickets to sporting events. Now that the bills are coming in and no one has gotten a pay raise, something in the monthly budget needs to be cut,maybe sporting events? Your Mom is pretty smart, huh?
By running up huge deficits (debt), Republican Santa is hoping he has wrapped President Biden in a “box,” as was done to Democratic President Clinton back in the day. To pay the bills Republican President Reagan had run up, President Clinton was forced to raise taxes and cut social welfare programs. He displeased “Tax Cut Santa” and “Spending Santa.”
You will hear Republicans talk a lot about deficits in the coming days. And you will hear Democrats say we need to spend money on social welfare programs. What you won’t hear is that their contract with each of their favorite Santas has a hidden clause (pardon the pun): “This loan is payable by the next generation.”
Merry Christmas, Virginia!
(Note: conservative columnist Jude Wanniski originated “Taxes and the Two Santa Claus Theory” in the National Observer in 1976, Republicans have used the debt strategy successfully ever since.)
Andy Seles lives in Ashland.