The Democratic Party has a newcomer in the race for the presidency, retired Gen. Wesley Clark, who brings the field of candidates to 10. For such a large field, diversity of thought is remarkably absent, and one searches in vain for a new idea other than raising taxes and tariff barriers.
The "Tax and Spend 10" were out in full force for their first joint debate on the economy held in New York last Thursday evening. Clark attacked President Bush as a man who "recklessly cut taxes"; Sen. John Kerry called the Bush tax cuts "ill-advised" and "unaffordable"; and, not to be outdone, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean called the tax cuts "excessive and extraordinary." Rep. Dick Gephardt pledged to repeal them altogether.
All the candidates want to raise taxes, but none of them was willing to come right out and say so. Instead, they spoke in subliminal messages - the euphemism for raising taxes is so-called "fiscal responsibility" or temporarily "suspending" the tax cut. For example, Kerry observed, "We can cut the deficit in half, we can be fiscally responsible (raise taxes), but we don't have to do it on the backs of the middle class." Likewise, Dean stated, "Let's be fiscally responsible (raise taxes) and balance the budget." If they keep it up, they surely will prove "Mondale's Law," i.e., he who calls for tax hikes during a presidential election loses.
When Alabama voters voted down a $1.2 billion tax hike by a 2-to-1 margin in a statewide referendum, the voters touched off a political earthquake that still reverberates through state capitals and in campaigns across this country with aftershocks that will tremor from now until the presidential election in November 2004. This vote sends a clear and unambiguous warning to other governors who have raised taxes to cover their profligate spending of the late 1990s, to the would-be governors in California and to the Democratic presidential hopefuls: Tax hikes are not the answer - economically or politically.
The Tax-and-Spend 10 think the $87 billion budget request for Iraqi occupation and reconstruction provides them the hook to raise taxes. Listen to how Florida Sen. Bob Graham spins the need to raise taxes to pay for "unanticipated new responsibilities" required to fight the war on terrorism: "We are asking our children and our grandchildren to pay for these costs. We're writing a deficit bill the likes of which we've never seen, which we're not going to assume responsibility for, but ask our children."