Back to the economy (stupid!)

Posted: Apr 17, 2003 12:00 AM

As war with Iraq winds down, expect the Democrats' war against President Bush to heat up. Mostly, it will fall along these lines: President Bush cares more about Iraqis than Americans . he is spending too much over there when more needs to be done here . the president cares only about the wealthiest 1 percent and not average people.

TV networks don't rerun programs as often as Democrats rerun their class-warfare "reality show."

Standing in the springtime Rose Garden last Tuesday (April 15), President Bush tried to get a head start on the coming economic debate by demanding Congress approve at least $550 billion in tax relief over the next 10 years. He had originally asked for $726 billion over the same period. He should have stuck to his guns with the original figure.

While the president said his proposed tax cut would stimulate the economy by creating more jobs, which would then provide more revenue to the government from more taxpayers, it would have helped his case to emphasize the wasteful spending by Congress, along with the fraud and abuse committed throughout government. He mentioned the spending part, but he should have given examples in order to attract the public's attention and bypass the media filter.

Citizens Against Government Waste continues to serve the public's interest with the publication of its annual "Pig Book." The president should carry it around with him like a Bible and quote passages whenever he speaks. The public would get it when he cites examples of how our money is wasted.

Brian Riedl, a fellow in Federal Budgetary Affairs at the Heritage Foundation (, has written an easy-to-understand spending-reduction proposal he says would offset more than half of the president's original $726 billion tax cut plan. Riedl also notes the federal government is projected to collect $27.9 trillion in taxes over 10 years and that if Congress agreed to the full $726 billion tax cut, the government would still rake in $27.2 trillion. That hardly rates as a "major" tax cut, as Democrats and "moderate" Republicans claim.

Riedl projects that if federal spending could be eliminated on things for which U.S. Treasury auditors cannot even account (known by the euphemism "unreconciled transactions"), taxpayers would save more than $17.1 billion in 2004 and $171 billion by 2013.

Fixing errors in the Medicare payment system would save $12.1 billion next year and $121 billion by 2013. Repairing errors in housing payments would save $3.3 billion in 2004 and $33 billion by 2013. Riedl offers other examples totaling $35 billion in first-year savings and $350 billion over 10 years.

The tax cut would not produce a static loss in revenue because the stimulation to the economy that comes from more jobs and an injection of more capital through consumer spending would offset a portion of it.

There are two causes for deficits and only two: not enough revenue or too much spending. The U.S. government ought to be able to live within our means when it is getting a projected $27.9 trillion over the next decade. The problem is spending. Too many members of Congress act like Third World dictators with our money. Instead of buying gold-plated thrones and rifles recently discovered by American forces in Iraq, our spendthrifts take our money and convert it into pork projects they use to keep themselves in office.

The president should revive the Golden Fleece Award used successfully by former Sen. William Proxmire (D-Wis.) to shame some of his congressional colleagues. It would be one way to at least balance, if not refocus, attention on spending, not taxes or even revenue. Everywhere he goes Bush should cite examples of waste, fraud and abuse, asking voters to send representatives to Washington who will treat other people's money the way they treat their own.

Focusing on spending is the way to combat the predictable class-warfare sloganeering of Democrats (and some Republicans) who want to tell us how much of our money they will allow us to keep, when we should be telling them how much of our money we will let them spend.