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Jewish World Review Feb. 20, 2001 / 27 Shevat, 5761

Debra J. Saunders

Debra J. Saunders
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Consumer Reports

How Dems define tax fairness -- IN Demo-land, words mean different things than they mean for Republicans.

For Dems, a "tax cut" is not an actual cut in the taxes people pay. To the contrary, a "tax cut" should go to the millions of people who don't pay any in come taxes, or who pay very little in taxes -- workers in 30-something-percent tax brackets be damned.

So when President Bush says wants to cut taxes, Dems dutifully explain that "tax cut" should never be mistaken to mean what it says. "Tax cut," means expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, not actually cutting taxes for all income-tax payers.

The other element of a Demo "tax cut" is that it must be tiny. Tiny makes it precious. Precious is good.

Then bow to the surplus.

When Repubs talk about giving surplus revenue back to the people who pay taxes, Good Dems know what to do. Invoke the sacred surplus, threaten to punch anyone who would muss so much as a hair of it.

Do not ask where the Surplus Lovers were when this year's nonmilitary federal spending grew by 14 percent. Ditto the 12 percent bump in nonmilitary federal spending the year before. To be worthy, a tax cut must be tiny and precious. Spending is different.

Do not pay attention to the National Taxpayers Union brief, which notes that if Congress and President Clinton had abided by congressional spending caps established for 1997 to 2002, federal spending would be $1.1 trillion lower. And: "Ironically, that difference would almost entirely fund President Bush's original $1.3 trillion across-the-board tax cut proposal."

But when the White House talks about putting a lid on the growth of government in certain areas -- good Dems pooh-pooh Bush. When USA Today reported this week that the Office of Management and Budget is considering cuts in the Justice, Interior, Energy and Commerce departments, Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., predicted the cuts will never happen. "They send up cuts that are unrealistic knowing they will be restored. It's the oldest budget game in the book," quoth Conrad.

Unrealistic? Can't spending hikes be tiny and precious? Pete Sepp of the taxpayer union noted that the cuts Conrad sees as undoable "would only be unrealistic to someone's whose face has been in the trough for years."

According to White House budget spokesman Christopher Ullman, "If spending continues to grow at the current rate it would eat up all of the tax cut." But in Demo-land, Surplus Hawks don't like to circle spending.

Oddly, many Bay Area Dems, who oppose the Bush tax cut as too big, favor a break in the estate tax. That is, they want to cut or eliminate taxes for estates valued more than $700,000, but a working Bay Area family that earns $300,000 shouldn't look to them for relief.

Dems may grouse that the Bush income tax cut would mean a Lexus for a rich family, but a muffler for a poor family, but if some Dems had their way, the tax cut would only deliver the Lexus if it came from dead parents.

Meanwhile the Bush "muffler" is no clunker. It would give back more than $1,000 to a middle-class family with two live kids.

Strange, but the Dems forgot their favorite word -- choice -- when it comes to this tax cut.

They forget to remind voters that those who oppose a tax cut on principle would be free to pay the old rates. After all, if people think the government can spend the money better than they can, who am I to stand in their way?

Comment JWR contributor Debra J. Saunders's column by clicking here.


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© 2000, Creators Syndicate