Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are unspeakable tragedies. They also provide an ideal chance for our country to discover a fundamental truth: When government takes an action, sooner or later we have to pay for it through our taxes.
No doubt Congress will approve generous aid packages to help Texas, Louisiana, Florida and probably other states rebuild - and it should do so. What Congress should not do is put it all on the national credit card.
Deep down we Americans are compassionate people. We don't want to see others suffer through no fault of their own. That's why we contribute to relief efforts by donating money and goods. But in the end it's the government that has to do the heavy lifting - for problems of this magnitude, no one else has the resources needed.
So, in an ideal world, Congress would say, yes, by all means we are going to provide ample aid for hurricane recovery and reconstruction - and to do it we're going to impose a surtax of X dollars for Y years. Because as taxpayers we are compassionate people, we should agree to this without hesitation.
By dealing with the issue in this way, we would engage a debate on which entities should pay how much. For example, how much from various forms of insurance? How much from the governments of the states affected? How much from charity? How much from the federal treasury?
We've gone on too long financing major government expenditures - including health care and multiple-year wars - on credit, and building up huge deficits in the bargain. When new and unexpected expenses come along, we have to pay for them, and we can't always do it by cutting expenses somewhere else.
Let's get back to responsible fiscal policy and start with hurricane relief. What do you say, Congress members?