Consumer spending in August jumped 0.8 percent, it was announced Monday -- for which many naturally blamed the Bush tax cuts.
Well, I mean, there had to be something amiss here -- something to blame, censure and fault. Consensus, or what is routinely reported as such, has for weeks had us scowling about the tax cuts that mean ol' Mr. Bush gave us early in his presidency.
The nerve of him anyway, trying to stimulate the economy by allowing workers and investors to keep, across the board, more of the fruits of their hard work! This sort of thing is normally referred to as "tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent." Democrats of the Dick Gephardt-Howard Dean stamp assure us they would repeal these cuts in toto.
Yeah, yeah, we'll see about that when and if the time comes. The political steward who undertakes such a policy will be saying to his constituents: Enough economic recovery already! Let's see some good old-fashioned pain around here!
Some of us have a hunch how well that pitch will sell, but we're not communicating it to Terry McAuliffe and the Democratic National Committee.
The polls, influenced by doom 'n' gloom-saying about the federal deficit, indicate support for kicking the bejesus out of America's "wealthiest 1 percent." (Fixty-six percent would cancel tax cuts for these unconscionable fat cats, according to a CNBC/Wall Street Journal poll.)
Yet a glance over the shoulder at California politics might not come amiss just now. Interesting things are happening on the Left Coast. Latest polls show about three in five voters solidly in favor of removing Gray Davis, he of the high-tax, big-spend, big-regulate policies. After next week, Davis seems likely to be living off his investments and government pension.
However, that isn't the end of the story. Who is the current favorite for Davis' job? None other than Arnold Schwarzenegger, with 40 percent approval compared with Cruz Bustamante's 25 percent. Now, why would that be? One key reason might be the policies that Arnold commends.
Last week in The Wall Street Journal, Arnold flexed his intellectual muscles. What a wholesome sight! He said: "My plan to rescue the economy in California is based on the opposite set of values (from Davis'). I want to slash the cost of doing business in California; I want to unburden businesses from regulations that strangle economic growth; I want to bring taxes down to levels competitive with our neighboring states. Within three years, I want business groups to trumpet the fact that California is once again one of the best places in the country to do business."
Did we all catch that last one -- bring taxes down? For the sake of economic growth. For the sake of events such as we should be celebrating this week -- the continued expansion of consumer spending. (Rule of thumb here: If you want more spending, make more money available.)
Arnold's lead in the polls is far from the only datum worth noting as the election nears. No. 3 in the polls isn't Arianna Huffington or Gary Coleman; it's State Sen. Tom McClintock, with 18 percent. If you think Arnold loves the free market, you owe yourself the acquaintance of Sen. McClintock, a man likelier to cut taxes than to sneeze at ragweed. What this means is 58 percent backing -- theoretical as that backing may be at this stage -- for office seekers certain not to raise taxes but lower them. In California! Think on it. California!
Presidential candidates and newspaper editorial writers retain, and always will, the capacity to spread alarm about the growth of economic freedom, as exemplified by tax cuts. In the long run, they lack the power to spread alarm over the consequences of failing to give the government more money. Let the tax hikers dream on. What a joy it will be to watch them wake up.