A pollster called my house a few weeks ago and started her survey by asking whether I was a conservative or liberal.
"It depends on what you mean by conservative," I said.
The caller made a funny noise as though she had just swallowed a pencil, and a sharp one at that. I knew better, however, as pencils have largely disappeared in this modern age of technology, saving countless trees and thereby delaying global warming, I am sure.
"How do you define conservative?" she asked.
"Well, a conservative is the opposite of a liberal," I replied. "But if you look up a liberal in the dictionary, it says that a liberal doesn't like the status quo and wants change. If that's the case, I'm a liberal because I don't like the status quo, and I want change, and not just a little change but radical change."
"Like what?" she asked.
"Like electing leaders who won't borrow money from the Chinese to pay our bills," I said. "I think we should spend no more than we bring in. The people who are running our country right now are spending $140 for every $100 we bring in. If they did that for one year for some emergency, I might go along with that, but then I would want to pay it back as soon as possible and be better prepared with a rainy day fund for the next emergency. But the people we sent to Washington are spending like they just won the recent lottery."
"Which party is at fault?" the pollster asked, obviously straying from the typed questions that appeared on her screen.
"Both of them," I said. "But it didn't get really bad until the Democrats got control of Congress again. President Bush didn't do anything to stop them from spending like mad and even encouraged them, and then President Obama made it worse. Now when either party talks about spending cuts, they're not spending cuts at all."
"What are they?" my listener asked. Certainly she wasn't being paid piecemeal, or I would have been cut off by now.
"They're spending increases," I said. "It's as though your accountant told you that you were going broke because you're making $3,000 a month but spending $5,000. And you say, 'I can fix that. I was planning to start spending $6,000, so I'll cut it down to $5,500.'"
"Now, that kind of math might get you through a lot of public schools nowadays, but you're not going to save any money. Even the Paul Ryan plan doesn't cut actual spending; it cuts the rate of planned spending increases. And yet Obama and the Democrats are calling Ryan's so-called cuts draconian because they can't increase spending as fast as they want."
"I see," my polling friend said. "But isn't President Obama trying to raise taxes to bring in more money?"
"No," I said. "Raising taxes and bringing in more money are two different things. Raising taxes slows down the economy. Every time we've lowered taxes, the economy has boomed, and tax revenues went up by a lot. President Obama wants to raise taxes because he thinks rich people have too much money, and he wants to share their money with people who don't have so much, even if it makes the economy even worse than it is right now."
"But won't that help poor people?" the woman asked.
"No," I said. "If you pay people not to work, they won't work. And if they won't work, they won't ever have enough money. Besides, when we take money from the wealthy and give it to the government, most of it just gets wasted on the government. About four out of every five dollars that is supposed to go to the poor ends up getting spent or taken home by bureaucrats."
"Well, how can we afford to pay for tax cuts if we give rich people tax breaks?" my friend asked.
"If rich people get to keep their money, guess what they do with it?" I asked.
"I don't know," she said.
"They spend it, save it or invest it," I said. "If they spend it, then that means somebody gets to earn it by selling something or doing something. And when that person gets the money, they spend it, too. Maybe on a newer car or on better food or a trip to Disneyland. And then the people that get their money have more money to spend. The rich guy's money ends up getting spent over and over again, maybe 10 to 20 times in a year, and everybody gets richer. But if you let Obama take that money out of circulation, nobody gets richer except the bureaucrats."
"I see," she said.
"You don't have to pay for tax cuts," I said. "You just don't spend money you don't have."
"But how can we pay for Social Security and Medicare if we don't have taxes?" she asked.
"I never said we don't need taxes," I said. "We just need to be smart about spending the money we raise through taxes. Right now we have people in this country who are paying Social Security and Medicare taxes and can't make their house payments or buy enough food or maintain their car, and yet we have wealthy people getting benefits. Does that seem fair or right to you?"
"Well, they paid into the system, and so they should get it back," she said.
"Look, there is no Social Security lockbox," I said. "And Medicare is going broke because a lot more money is going out than is going in. It's been a big lie that people are paying into some sort of investment fund that will benefit them in the future. There is no investment fund. Their money is going out faster than it is coming in, and the only way people who are paying into Social Security and Medicare will ever get anything back is if the younger generations continue to pay into the system."
"Well, then, how can we fix it," she asked.
"Let's start with real cuts," I said. "That means trying something radical and drastic. Let's cut down on entitlements except for the truly needy. Let's stop giving money to companies and industries that the politician of the day likes, such as the hundreds of millions of dollars that Obama is wasting on Solyndra and other green companies, and let's minimize taxes and let people save and spend their own money. Liberals say that my solutions are too conservative, and some Republicans think my solutions are too radical, but those Republicans aren't very conservative the way I see it, so just mark me down as conservative."