Robert Novak

The architect of that impression is Sen. Kent Conrad, the austere Democratic chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. "It restores fiscal responsibility by balancing the budget by 2012," he said of his resolution in Senate debate last week.

Conrad claimed: "We try to keep taxes low." In fact, Conrad is the consummate tax collector who spent the 12 formative career years prior to his 1986 election to the Senate as an assistant tax commissioner and then tax commissioner in North Dakota. His most recent liberal ratings are 90 and 85 percent by the liberal Americans for Democratic Action. The National Taxpayers Union put him at 17 and 16 percent in 2005 and 2006.

The breakdown of the bill on the House floor today (resembling the Senate version) raises taxes an average of $1,795 on 115 million taxpayers in 2011. Some 26 million small-business owners would average $3,960 more in taxes. The decreased number of Americans actually subject to income taxes will all be paying higher taxes, and 5 million low-income Americans will be returned to the rolls.

Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the 37-year-old fifth-termer who is the House Budget Committee's new ranking Republican, has proposed an alternative resolution. It not only retains Bush tax cuts but also proposes deep reductions in spending, protects Social Security payments and runs down the national debt.

Why was no such budget resolution proposed during 12 years that the GOP was in the majority? Would the party's leadership support the Ryan resolution if it were in control now? That those questions must be asked undermines Republican credibility and explains why Democrats dare return to tax, spend and elect.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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