Jewish World Review Jan. 14, 2002 / Rosh Chodesh Shevat, 5762
Not Abraham Lincoln's. His year included secession, Bull Run and other unpleasantness, but public expectations for him started low.
Not Teddy Roosevelt's. He was a pleasant surprise, but not a startling surprise.
Not Herbert Hoover's, because the October 1929 stock market collapse was not understood as the beginning of a depression.
Nothing in presidential history matches Bush's transformation. He limped out of Florida. Now he bestrides the globe.
Tom Daschle, too, has been transformed since last Jan. 20, into Washington's pre-eminent Democrat.
For a while, Republicans worried that Daschle's mild demeanor would anesthetize the public concerning his partisanship and policies. Now many Republicans regard Daschle as the Democrats' problem.
The Daschleized Democratic Party has acquired five new wrinkles which cumulatively look like weirdness:
So this is Daschleized arithmetic: Your taxes under current law are X. Your taxes would be X plus Y under a new law repealing the older law. But the new law does not raise your taxes.
In his speech, which praised "fiscal discipline" or "fiscal integrity" 11 times, Daschle implied that "the rapidly disappearing surplus" proves the absence of such discipline and integrity. So Daschlenomics holds that even during economic slowdowns, surpluses - government taxing more than existing programs require - are virtuous.
He said this recession has produced "the most dramatic fiscal deterioration in our nation's history." Well, senators speechifying are not under oath.
However, measured sensibly - either as a percentage of the federal budget, or in terms of a deficit relative to the federal budget or GDP - the decline of government revenues in this recession is dramatically less than in most others. Just since World War II there have been larger percentage reductions of revenues in seven recessions. And eleven times there have been larger annual deteriorations in the fiscal position as a share of GDP than what occurred between fiscal 2000 and 2001. For the record, fiscal 2001 en
ded with a $127 billion surplus.
Daschle denounces "tax cuts that go disproportionately to the most affluent" - that is, across-the-board cuts that allow all Americans to keep proportionally more of what they earn. However, he adores the Agriculture Act of 2001 (after Sept. 11, ludicrously renamed the Farm Security Act) which gives, mostly to the affluent, money that the recipients have not earned.
Farm incomes are expected to hit record levels this year, and already the average farm household has an income 17 percent above the national average and a net worth double the national average - plus a lower cost of living in rural areas. And most of the subsidies Daschle favors do not go to average farm households: two-thirds of the subsidies go to 10 percent of the subsidy recipients, most of whom earn much more than $250,000 annually.
Thus is "fairness" Daschleized.
In Daschle's South Dakota, 70 percent of farms - the third-highest percentage in the nation - are subsidized. Which is one reason why the farm bill, an assault on "fiscal integrity," was such a wartime priority for him.