Thomas Sowell

The all-out attempt in the media to scare us away from tax cuts was epitomized by a Newsweek cover with the caption: "Bush's $1.6 trillion gamble." In other words, it is a gamble to let people keep their own money, but apparently it is safe to put that money in the hands of Washington politicians.

Newsweek's cover was turned into an editorial cartoon by creating a composite photo depicting President Bush with a come-on grin, offering packs of money. In reality, neither the President nor the Congress is giving anybody anything. They are trying to let people keep a little more of what they earned.

The latest political ploy is to say that we need to guard against reducing taxes, if the surplus that has been projected does not materialize in the years ahead. It sounds reasonable, if you don't stop and think about it -- and politicians are counting on our not stopping to think about it.

Democratic Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher of California is pushing the idea of a "trigger" mechanism that will stop tax cuts whenever there is not enough money coming in to cover government spending. Just what does that mean in practice? It means that the liberals can stop the tax cut, even after it has become law, just by spending so much money that there will no longer be a surplus.

Congresswomen Tauscher dresses this idea up as "fiscally conservative." But if a "trigger" mechanism is really a way to avoid deficits, then why was this wonderful idea never applied to increased spending? Why not have spending frozen whenever there is not enough money coming in to cover it? But the whole point of this ploy is not to stop spending, but to let it keep on growing, despite demands for tax cuts.

Among the other ploys used to try to prevent tax cuts is the claim that the Reagan tax cuts of the 1980s were the reason for the rising deficits of the 1980s. Let's confound the politicians once again by stopping to think about it. Let's even look at the facts.

The tax cuts of the 1980s cut the tax RATES. This did not reduce the tax REVENUE that came into Washington. More tax revenues were collected in every year of the two Reagan Administrations than had ever been collected in any year of any previous administration in history. Congress just spent all this money -- and more. That is why there was a deficit.


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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