Here's what you get from The New York Times when you try to honor Americans' innate, you might think, right to enjoy the fruits of their labors. You get:
"(T)he House passed (a) tax bill … that would drain the Treasury of $56 billion of additional revenue over the next five years" -- a measure "both unaffordable and gratuitous," not to mention "morally reprehensible."
All I can say is, let's hope that next year, the House and the Senate get really reprehensible. So low-down, so sleazy and gratuitous, that the whole tax-raising, tax-loving editorial-page staff of the Times keels over in empurpled anguish. That might mean Congress, for the first time in a while, had done something profoundly constructive about the tax code's ongoing impositions.
The House vote last week to extend the 15 percent rate on capital gains and dividends was by no means a foregone conclusion, notwithstanding the Republicans' nominal control of Capitol Hill. Washington, D.C., mythology insists on two improbabilities: 1) that tax cuts benefit mainly "the rich," and 2) that they cause huge deficits.
Republicans are elected to sneer at these improbabilities -- which, sometimes, they actually do. But, then, after you've hung around Washington for a while, the myths come creeping up on you in the night. What "everybody" is saying, day after day, starts to sound like received truth.
The House's 234-197 vote last week to extend the Bush tax cuts in spite of The New York Times et al counts as gutsy. Not that it clears the decks for final enactment of the 15 percent extensions. Senators, often more alarmed than House members by the town's mythological beasts, had dropped the extensions at the bidding of so-called moderate Republicans. It will be up to negotiators in conference committee to decide which chamber gets its way. You begin to see the difficulties that ensue when sound measures compete for the upper hand with inflammatory misjudgments.
The fundamental reality here is that government wants our money -- and thus is prepared to misread evidence that taking less money from us is not only nicer but smarter than taking more money. The Times, which often speaks unofficially for the big-government lobby, observed in a news story that the 15 percent rate extensions will "cost" $20 billion. A tax cut, that is to say, is money out of the government's pocket.