Though the nation's fiscal imbalance has rarely reached such a critical point as today, the failure of lawmakers to impose taxes in an attempt to curry favor with voters is a problem as old as the republic.
Slightly more than 200 years ago, as the Constitutional Convention approached and as populist state governments were wildly printing money and repudiating debts, Alexander Hamilton appealed for Americans to recognize the need for taxes. Two centuries later, his plea retains its note of urgency.
``How is it possible that a government half supplied ... can provide for the security, advance the prosperity or support the reputation of the commonwealth?' said Hamilton, who became the first secretary of the Treasury. ``How can it ever possess either energy or stability, dignity or credit, confidence at home or respectability abroad? How can its administration be anything else than a succession of expedients, temporizing, impotent, disgraceful?'