President Bush is poised and determined to implement an ambitious domestic agenda in his second term. The question is whether his party will let him wither on the vine.
The president's political capital is robust, having won the election handily -- at least beyond sane dispute -- and Republicans, on paper, firmly control Congress. The opposition's main policy complaint -- the Iraq War -- has even broken in the president's direction with the phenomenally successful elections in Iraq and the vindicating eruption of demands for liberation and democracy in Lebanon.
But things are not always as they seem. The New York Times recently reported that the president's plan to extend his tax cuts over the next five years has met strong opposition -- from certain "Republican" senators.
These senators say they are concerned about the potential impact of the tax cuts on the "ballooning" federal deficit. They are suggesting that the tax cuts be scaled back from $100 billion to $70.2 billion over the next five years.
It's sad that even Republicans have bought into the zero-sum analysis of tax policy, believing that a dollar of tax cuts reduces revenues by a dollar. In fact -- undisputed fact -- marginal income tax reductions of sufficient magnitude to affect people's production have yielded net increases in revenue at least twice in my lifetime, first with the JFK cuts of the '60s, and next with the Reagan ones of the '80s.
It's predictable that Democrats would get in the president's way on tax reform. But apparently, way too many Republican politicians are also oblivious to the power of marginal tax cuts to expand the pie and increase revenues. Obviously, they also reject the truism that Americans, especially the most productive ones, are overtaxed and that the problem with the budget is on the spending side. If congressional Republicans are resisting the president's existing income tax structure, how much more will they oppose his more elaborate plans to restructure the tax system down the road?
Social Security is another maddening area. All parties agreed as recently as the end of President Clinton's second term that Social Security was rapidly approaching a crisis. Clinton himself said it, and Al Gore demanded a lock box. But they never intended to lay a finger on this proverbial Third Rail of politics, as it is a sacrament of their political religion almost as sacred as abortion.