The linked video isn’t especially significant, just the first example I found of a media outlet discussing the current issue of the possible extension of payroll tax cuts. Specifically, the issue at hand seems to be how to “pay for” (or “fund” or any other synonym you’d like to use) these tax cuts. Now, this idea may seem strange, so I’d like to make myself as clear as possible here.
Tax cuts are not something that have to be “paid for,” “funded,” or any such thing.
Taxes are a means, not an end. This is important so I’m going to repeat it. Taxes are a means, not an end. Repeat it to yourself one more time. Taxes are a means, not an end.
As usual, this debate is clarified by re-examining the ever-important question, “What is the purpose of government?” Answers vary from person to person. If you’re a libertarian, you probably say “to protect individual freeom.” If you’re a leftist, you probably say “to provide people their basic needs and promote equality.” Amazingly enough, neither side says “to tax people.” Taxes are a means, not an end. This means that taxes exist in order to bring about the ends of government. Whether the ends of government are military defense, interstate highways, free abortions for teenagers, or a giant bureaucracy designed to take money from the rich and give it to the poor are not relevant to this discussion. The point is, the ends are the things that need to be funded and paid for. If the government decides to start providing free abortions when previously it did not, that requires funding, and taxes would be an appropriate means to obtain that funding.
The fact that we’ve reached a point in this country where the amount and rate of taxation seems completely and totally unrelated to the amount and rate of spending is a sad state of affairs indeed. But no amount of spin can change the simple fact: Taxes are a means not an end. We don’t have to “pay” for tax cuts. We have to pay for the military, medicare, social security, and corporate welfare. Taxes are how we pay for things, not what we pay for. To imply otherwise is to imply that taxes themselves are a government service demanded by the people. That as a society we have said, “From our government, we want a military, free medical care, and taxes,” which is obviously not the case.
Now, if one particular tax is being reduced, it is legitimate (and probably even responsible) to discuss ways that the revenue can be replaced, and that is in fact the discussion we are having (Democrats want to replace one tax with a different tax, Republicans want to replace one tax with spending cuts). But it is important to frame the discussion the correct way. Taxes are a means, not an end.