Budget battle: Four points of advice from Ike

In confronting agonizing budget challenges and political fissures, America would benefit from advice from “Ike.” These words, from a Republican, challenged listeners then regardless of party, as they will challenge listeners today. Mount Holyoke College tax scholar John O. Fox gives us Dwight D. Eisenhower's four critical pieces of advice on taxes, debt, the role of government, and what it means to be a "good American."

4. On the national debt

Ike believed that the US government debt held by the public in 1954 was “gigantic” and could lead to a dangerous level of inflation. (Sound familiar?) Such debt also would be unfair to future generations. “My friends,” Ike began the final words of his speech, “a century and a half ago, George Washington gave us some good advice.

He said we should keep a good national defense. He also said we should not ungenerously impose upon our children the burden which we ourselves ought to bear. I know you and I agree with him.”

In his vision of a responsible government, and good citizenship, Ike summoned our better angels. Let’s hope we can summon them today.

John O. Fox is a visiting professor and tax-policy scholar at Mount Holyoke College. He is a former tax lawyer and the author of “If Americans Really Understood the Income Tax.”

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