George Will

Democrats had hoped to reprise 1992 in 2004 by convincing the country that Bush is so focused abroad, he is inattentive to the economy. But soon about 25 million households will begin receiving $400 rebate checks for each child, a result of a supposedly temporary increase, retroactive to 2002, in the child credit from $600 to $1,000. And paychecks will have reduced withholdings as a result of the acceleration of the rate reductions enacted in 2001.

Democrats had hoped to assail Bush for running up large deficits that ``must'' cause rising interest rates, and hence slow economic growth. But the postulated causation seems shaky: With deficit projections soaring, 10-year Treasury notes are near a 45-year low.

Besides, based on decades of disappointments, Republicans can tell Democrats a thing or two about the difficulty of turning deficit anxieties into votes. Americans are ideological budget-balancers but operational deficit-spenders. Repeated collisions with that fact helped make Republicans receptive to supply-side economics.

The core of that doctrine is the not-at-all exotic notion that at certain times, certain tax cuts will so stimulate the economy that they will be largely or entirely self-financing. Ronald Reagan, apostle of conservatism with a smiling face rather than conservatism scowling beneath a bookkeeper's green eyeshade, accepted that economic rationale for tax cuts, and added a political rationale:

Even when tax cuts are not stimulative, they are justified as the most effective restraint on government spending. Today's Democratic presidential candidates are proposing universal health care and increased spending on school construction, teachers' pay, national service programs, medical research, energy research, infrastructure and on and on and on. They can either avoid the subject of how they plan to pay for all this, or they can promise tax increases--repeals and sunsets of all the Bush tax cuts--totaling about $2 trillion over 10 years.

Thus has Bush used tax cuts to prepare the terrain for what he can call the $2 trillion election.


George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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