Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON -- Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania came here last week to offer a deeply pessimistic report on the state of the union. The facts, however, suggest otherwise.

America was losing its competitive edge in the world in just about every sector imaginable, the states were being forced to make deep budget cuts because they did not have enough revenue or federal assistance, largely due to President Bush's tax cuts, and all "the trend lines are getting worse," said the finance chairman of the Democratic Governors Association.

There didn't seem to be anything that was the bright, uplifting or optimistic in the picture of the nation's economic future Rendell painted at a news conference at the National Press Club.

We were losing our edge in global trade -- to China and other emerging economies. We were facing failure in technological innovations in a world where other countries were producing far more science, engineering and math graduates than we were. We remained behind just about all the other industrialized nations of the world in student test scores. We were falling behind on everything.

It was a starkly different picture than the one President Bush is expected to present to the nation in his State of the Union address Tuesday night. But Rendell's message that "America is losing its edge" in the world is the Democrats' latest attempt to convince voters that the United States is in decline, and the only thing that will pull us out of this spiral is more spending, paid for of course with higher taxes.

But let's take some of Rendell's America-Is-Falling-Into-The-Abyss trend lines one at a time:

He says state revenues have been drying up and the governors have been forced to make draconian cuts at every level of government.

In fact, the economic expansion has produced a windfall in higher tax revenue for the federal government (nearly $100 billion more than was expected last year) and for the states, too.

A study for the Cato Institute by tax policy analyst Chris Edwards said last week that state and local tax revenues have soared in the last two years.

State tax revenues increased 8.7 percent in 2004 and an estimated 8.0 percent last year, according to the Cato study.

Local tax revenues, driven up by a booming housing sector, rose 7.3 percent in 2004 and an estimated 7.1 percent in 2005. All these revenue numbers are based on data from the U.S. Bureau of the Census. So Rendell's poor mouthing of the states' fiscal picture isn't true.


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.