Taxation and Deadlock
On the night of July 14, 1789.
Louis XVI: "Why, it is a revolt."
Duc de la Rochefoucauld-Liancourt: "No, Sire, it is a revolution."
In 1789 the French monarchy was, to put it plainly, broke. The government of the richest country in Europe had no money. The costs of helping the Americans win their independence from England had been ruinous, but the intervention had been successful. However, the treasury was empty. In 1787 Louis XVI called a meeting of the nobility called the Assembly of Notables and asked them for help in solving the financial problem. The nobles at the assembly were so shocked at the extent of the debt that they rejected any attempts to solve it. In desperation the government of Louis XVI called a meeting of the Estates General, which had not met since 1614, to ask it to levy new taxes. Instead of voting by each member, the monarch allowed the Estates General to vote by Estate - the three estates being the nobility, the Church, and the lower classes. Since the Church was staffed by the younger sons of the nobility, any vote on increased taxes on the nobility, the richest class in France, would be two to one. The people of Paris, joined by the elements of the army, stormed the Bastille, a symbol of royal authority, on July 14, 1789.
I often think of this historical chain of events when I hear of the budget deadlock between the administration and the House of Representatives. We live in the richest country on Earth and yet our government cannot raise enough tax money to finance its programs. It must continually borrow. Yet attempts to raise taxes are met with unyielding resistance. The reason we have the deficit is that we didn't tax enough before 2012; the political resolve simply was not there. Now the only answer that one party will accept is cutting domestic programs antithetical to its ideology, which a majority of Americans will not agree to.