Bush tax cuts and democratic distortions

Posted: Mar 21, 2001 12:00 AM
Politics can be very frustrating sometimes. Everyone understands that we need substantial tax cuts as part of the policy mix to boost the ailing economy. Unfortunately, Congressional Democrats are too busy playing politics to join President Bush in passing remedial legislation. I thought they had stooped as low as they could with the charge that the rich would each buy a Lexus and the middle class a muffler with their tax cut savings. But I was wrong. President Bush, say Senator Daschle and Gephardt, has personally caused the economic standstill and the market crash by "talking down the economy." It gets better. Congressman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) delivered the Democratic response to President Bush's weekly radio address this past weekend. His text contained some real doozies. Following candidate Clinton's 1992 canard that under President Bush (the elder) we were experiencing the worst economy of the last 50 years, Menendez presented a similarly distorted history lesson: "Let's remember 1993," said Menendez, "when the last President Bush had just left office: We were plagued by sagging financial markets, high unemployment and decreasing consumer confidence. America was in crisis." It's difficult to know where to begin to counter these whoppers. During the fourth quarter of 1992 -- precisely the time Clinton was slandering the "Bush economy" -- the economy grew at an annualized rate of 5.4 percent. Not only was the economy not in crisis, it was booming. Menendez didn't stop there. "The answer we Democrats proposed," said the Congressman, "was to do what you do with your family's budget: deciding what's important, forgoing what's not, leaving room for savings, making responsible choices. So we tightened our financial belt, while still investing in the things that make our economy grow and our quality of life improve." Hmmm ... I wonder whether it was President Clinton's multibillion-dollar economic stimulus package or his and his wife's scheme to nationalize one-seventh of the economy through Hillary-care that the Congressman considers "belt-tightening." The truth is that in 1992 and 1993, Clinton didn't even aspire to reduce the deficit. Go back and review his budget projections if you don't believe me. While Clinton was badmouthing the Reagan deficits, he was projecting deficits higher than Reagan's. Reagan's deficits were shrinking once the effects of his tax cut kicked in. In his last two years in office and President Bush's first year, the deficits averaged around $150 billion. Yet Clinton's projected deficit for 1998 was more than twice as high at $361 billion. Clinton was bailed out by Newt Gingrich's "belt-tightening" Republican Congress. Next, Menendez proceeded to the class warfare argument, saying Bush's tax plan would primarily benefit the rich. This flagrantly ignores the fact that the Bush tax plan will make the tax code more progressive. You heard me right. The highest income earners will get the least percentage reduction in their tax rates. Then, Menendez treated us to a dose of racial warfare. "As the highest-ranking Hispanic in Congress, I can tell you that many Hispanic families will get little from the Bush plan." Of course, Bush's plan is racially colorblind, and these gratuitous references to race are offensive and divisive, but utterly predictable from the Democratic leadership. In his final misrepresentation of the Bush plan, Menendez asserted that Bush would raid the Social Security and Medicare surpluses, when he knows that it would do no such thing. Instead of helping Republicans turn this economy around, Democrats are spending their energy blaming George W. Bush for the economic downturn that began during Bill Clinton's tenure. Isn't it amazing that they attribute so much power to the words of this man they consider to be so inarticulate? Listen, congressional Democrats. If you want to propagate these falsehoods, could you at least wait until after we've addressed the serious problem we're now facing? Can't we agree that it's more important to find a solution than assigning blame? I applaud Bush for his general willingness to reach across the aisle to appeal to Democrats to support his legislation. But given the Clintonized, warlike mentality that has infected the Democratic Party he should probably not expect too many to demonstrate statesmanship to help Bush reverse the state of this economy. Bush can't afford to compromise with Democrats, if compromise means diluting the bill to the point of rendering it ineffective. All the rate cuts must be front-loaded and made retroactive to January if we are to expect any stimulus effect on the economy. It's time to press forward.