William F. Buckley
At lunch with an urbane former publisher, now distinguished professor, the new tax plan of President Bush came up for discussion, and I remarked that the class warriors would be in full cry. My resourceful friend said, Hey, where do you get off charging class warfare when all some people want is simply to criticize a proposed tax bill?

Waal, I said, what you do is watch the rhetoric. See how they say it; what are their formulations. Are the critics simply saying: This proposed tax reform is a bad idea, or are they saying, "Here we go, mulcting the poor in order to make the rich richer" -- that kind of thing?

I proffered as an example of the political mind-tilt, even of professionals who think themselves entirely neutral on such questions, that morning's obituary in The New York Times on Roy Jenkins, the British scholar/politician. Toward the end of a full account of Lord Jenkins' life, the reporter wrote, "After four years in Brussels, Mr. Jenkins returned home in 1981 to find British politics polarized between an unelectable Labor Party controlled by the hard left and an ultra-right Conservative government dominated by Mrs. Thatcher." The left in Great Britain becomes, under the kindly editorial nurture of The New York Times, merely the "hard" left. The right -- the "ultra-right."

That same day, The Wall Street Journal commented in an editorial about the end of the so-called "luxury tax," which beginning in 1991 was designed to impose surcharges on high-priced goods -- a 10 percent surcharge on cars valued above $30,000, on boats valued above $100,000, and on jewelry and furs above $10,000. Upon passage of the bill, "Democrats like Ted Kennedy and then-Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell crowed publicly about how the rich would finally be paying their fair share."

What happened was supply-side, three-star fare. Boat sales dropped 77 percent, the new tax brought in $97 million less than projected, and boat builders laid off 25,000 workers. Blushing with embarrassment, ultra-hard class warriors noticed they'd badly missed their mark. Mitchell and Kennedy, in whose states most boats are built, acquiesced discreetly in rescinding the tax, which survived only for luxury cars -- and that ended on midnight last New Year's.


William F. Buckley

William F. Buckley, Jr. is editor-at-large of National Review, the prolific author of Miles Gone By: A Literary Autobiography.

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