The underreported story of this election is how much extra money Al Gore wants the federal government to spend. Newspapers have devoted much ink to how George W. Bush' tax-cut plan might be a problem if there is an economic downturn. Stories frequently repeat Team Gore's warning that the Bush proposal to reduce income taxes by $1.3 trillion over 10 years is a "risky tax scheme."
Wrong, people. The truly risky scheme is Al Gore's dream budget. Tom E. McClusky of the conservative National Taxpayers Union added up Gore's program proposals and found that Gore wants to expand the federal budget by $2.3 trillion over the next 10 years ... that's $161 billion more than the estimated $2.1 trillion non-Social Security surplus. Seems that all those wonderful programs Gore has pushed ... universal preschool, universal health-care access for children, federally funded teacher pay raises, subsidized pre scription drugs for rich seniors, retiring Third World debt, hiring 10,000 new prose cutors and public financing of elections ... would cost real money.
Earlier this week Gore warned that the Bush tax cut would "wreck our good economy" and plunge America into deficit spending. The Bush tax cut adds up to $1 trillion less than the extra green Gore wants to spend ... and on top of that, Gore has proposed a 10-year $500 billion
tax cut of his own. He's like a kid with a credit card.
As Gore boosters ignore the danger his trillion-dollar boondoggles present, they warn that if Plan Bush became law and a surprise recession cut into the surplus, it would be difficult for Bush to raise taxes and deficit spending could result. True, but taxpayers would be in a worse position under Plan Gore. They'd be stuck having to support existing federal spending, plus an army of new billion-dollar programs, most people's taxes would be as high as ever, and tax revenue still wouldn't produce enough to feed the beast.
One big difference: If Gore had his way, taxpayers could be strapped without an economic downturn.
Say this for Bush. He got lucky: Estimates of the surplus have risen since he first released his tax cut proposal. This means his tax-cut plan is less risky than it was when announced ... even when you consider his proposed spending increases, $426 billion over 10 years according to the NTU.
Under Bush, Washington could pay off some of the national debt. Gore promises to pay down the national debt ... but with what, Monopoly money?
To distract voters from the piddling tax relief he has to offer, Gore charges that Bush is too interested in cutting taxes for the "wealthy." Apparently wealthy for Gore includes couples who make over $60,000, for he deems most such families worthy of a tax cut only if they care for an elderly relative or do save for retirement or do something else he deems worthy. Struggling to pay the mortgage in an pricey real-estate market is not worthy.
This points to the other big difference between Gore and Bush. As Bush economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, if Gore were in charge, only a small number of people would be deemed worthy of tax relief. "In our plan, you don't have to do anything. You get a tax cut because you work."
That is Gore's idea of "risky."
It isn't "risky" for him to suggest so many spending programs that he's already outspent the projected surplus. It isn't "risky" for him to say he's going to increase spending, reduce taxes for the deserving and still pay down the debt ... when it's mathematically impossible.
But it is "risky" if Dubya believes that every worker should get a break. It's risky because Gore, even if he can't budget hon estly, still knows best how to spend other people's money.