Bush buried those words on Thursday night, "That's a fact," said Gov. Bush, "Or as my opponent might call it, a risky truth scheme." The room erupted in applause. "Every one of the proposals I've talked about tonight he's called a risky scheme over and over again. It is the sum of his message, the politics of the roadblock, the philosophy of the stop sign. If my opponent had been at the moon launch, it would have been a risky rocket scheme." Another burst of laughter. "If he had been there when Edison was testing the lightbulb, it would have been a risky anti-candle scheme." Hysterical belly laughs.
After that, no Democrat is ever again going to be able to utter the phrase "risky tax scheme" without raising more guffaws than fears. So Bill Clinton hastily settled for damning marriage tax relief as "the first installation of a fiscally reckless tax strategy," (which makes the GOP plan sound a little less like the sort of thing that would get you sent upriver for three to five years). Gov. Bush didn't mention marriage tax relief in his convention speech, preferring to highlight what many social conservatives consider the more important pro-family tax cut, doubling the child tax credit to $1,000 per child. But on a campaign stop in Durand, Mich., he criticized Clinton and Gore saying, "Had I been president of the United States, I would have signed that bill."
Gore and the Democrats, thanks to Clinton, are getting tied to an increasingly intransigent pro-tax position, a bewildering (to taxpayers) and difficult-to-explain fervor to make the world safe for revenue-enhancement policy. The Democratic equivalent of a tax pledge this year seems to be: Read my lips -- no new tax relief!
Soon, Republicans in Congress plan to send the president another bite-size tax cut, such as the death tax. And no doubt Clinton and Gore will scurry once again to a well-thumbed copy of Roget's Thesaurus, rummaging for three new little words with which to frighten voters.
As a public service, so Gore and Clinton can return to the people's business, I've done a little rummaging myself.
Let's see, synonyms for "tax" include: levy, toll, duty, impost, forced loan, tribute, Danegeld, ransom, Peter's pence, octroi, scutage.
"Risky" takes you to such dangerous possibilities as: perilous, fraught with danger, hazardous, dicey, iffy, chancy.
And "scheme"? Well, we'll have to settle for ho-hum words like policy, plan, design, course of action, approach, stroke of policy, proposed line of action, program, agenda.
Try it yourself at home kids. Take one adjective, add two nouns and shake. Maybe the Dems will denounce the next GOP tax cut as an "iffy forced loan-rebate plan," a "dicey Danegeld stroke of policy" or perhaps a "perilous voter ransom agenda."
No wait, hold the presses. Under "rash" I have it. Next time Clinton and the Dems want to denounce GOP tax relief, they can call it a "light, frivolous, airy, breezy, flippant, giddy, devil-may-care, harum-scarum, slaphappy, trigger-happy, irresponsible, reckless, regardless, couldn't-care-less, don't-care, damning the consequences, lunatic, wanton, wild ... tax contrivance."
After that nobody will dare ask Washington for any of their own money back, right?
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.
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