May 30 2003
MORE ON TAXES: This Financial
Times story seems to be causing a bit of a stir. And for someone
who has been bashing the New York Times's brains in over their
reporters' misrepresentations, Andrew
Sullivan should be blushing.
are looming. Are they entirely the Bush administration's fault?
Of course not. They are the product of a post-bubble economic
recession, a terrorist attack that crippled our economy, and the
distribution of significant resources to fight back against terrorists.
The first two items are unchangeable facts, and the third is also
a more or less fixed cost resulting from 9/11.
One may argue
that Al Gore wouldn't have increased our defense budget as much
as Bush and wouldn't have spent billions on a war in Iraq, but
the overall difference in defense spending between a Bush or Gore
presidency would have been negligible. Not to mention I'm sure
a President Gore would have diverted billions of dollars more
than President Bush to states to equip first responders, etc.
So here we
are, with the economy limping along. We have five basic choices:
1) Cut taxes and try to grow our way out of deficits 2) Increase
taxes to raise treasury receipts immediately 3) Boost government
spending on infrastructure to try and stimulate the economy or
4) Slash government spending to try and close the budget deficit
or 5) Do nothing.
As a practical
and political matter, it would be irresponsible for President
Bush not to take action on the economy with unemployment continuing
to rise and the economy continuing to bump along. He's chosen
to try and spur economic growth by lowering taxes and Congress
has responded by allowing the tax cut at the cost of some additional
one to buy into doomsday scenarios whether they come from the
left or the right. Still, I'm a little surprised by the immediate
hysteria by Sullivan and the rest over deficits and the supply-side
idea that slashing marginal tax rates will help us grow our way
out of deficits. After all, we've done this before. Twice.
And as for
John Scalzi, whoever he is, I'm really happy that he makes
enough money to afford higher taxes. But just remember that his
lamentation over the dire situation of his local community comes
after a decade of massive economic prosperity and unparalleled
spending increases at the local and state level. It also comes
while Bob Byrd (and Ted Stevens, et al. for that matter) has continued
to ship millions of taxpayer dollars from all around the country
home every single year to his beloved West Virginia. Personally,
I'd rather starve Bob Byrd and pay twice as much in state taxes.
then, I'd be against taxes on principle. Yes, I want certain government
services and I'm willing to pay for them just like the next guy.
But I think we've all lost sight of just
how pervasive taxes are in our society. And in many cases
we don't derive the reasonable benefits we seek from paying taxes,
our roads are still crappy, our schools still lack necessary items,
etc. Why? Not because we don't pay enough, but because the money
we send to government is lost, wasted, misappropriated, stolen,
or diverted to other things - like bridges in West Virginia, for
Bevan 7:56 am
May 29 2003
TAX CUTS AND CLASS WARFARE: Bush's big win on his
new tax cut has prompted another round of vicious hand-wringing
on the left. This morning Bob Herbert ratchets up the class warfare
yesterday it was high-fives all around as Mr. Bush signed the
third-largest tax cut in history at a grand ceremony in the
East Room of the White House.
if your income is large enough, there is every reason to celebrate.
After all, the tax cut could save Dick Cheney $100,000 a year,
given the economic realities in the U.S. right now, I thought
the East Room celebration was in poor taste. The enormous tax-cut
package (which is coupled with budget deficits that are lunging
toward infinity) is a stunning example of Mr. Bush's indifference
to the deepening plight of working people.
as a practical political matter, the idea that a president - any
president - seeking reelection would exert all possible influence
to pass a bill that would stick it to the vast majority of working
people in the country and raise unemployment is...(give me a minute
while I talk myself down from using a really harsh pejorative
here)... counterintuitive. Sorry, I can't resist: it's an absolutely
ridiculous idea that has no basis in reality.
you will about whether President Bush has come up with the right
method for jump-starting the economy, but don't impugn Bush's
motives by saying that this tax cut is designed to "inflate
the portfolios of the very wealthy" at the expense of the
poor. Again, if the tax cuts are truly only targeted at lining
the pockets of the top 1 percent of American taxpayers, President
Bush is committing political suicide. I know Bob Herbert thinks
Bush is an idiot, but he's not that stupid.
telling, however, is that Herbert fails to offer even one idea
of how to go about providing new jobs for the middle class he
says is being squeezed. He derides the fact unemployment has risen
to 6%. He derides the fact deficits are ballooning. Yet he also
derides the fact that the tax cut is now:
the government of the money needed to pay for essential services
and to maintain a safety net for the nation's most vulnerable
closing schools and libraries in America, and withholding lifesaving
drugs and medical treatment from the poor."
words, Herbert doesn't want to cut taxes and he doesn't want to
cut spending. His answer to the current trouble in the economy
is - surprise! - to spend more money. But how can we do that without
incurring those terrible deficits that Herbert loathes? We can't
- unless we raise taxes.
In any case,
Herbert's druthers wouldn't lead to any new job creation in the
country. His obvious compassion for the poor and working class
- measured in his mind solely in terms of how much money the government
spends on programs to take care of them - prevents Herbert from
accepting the idea that tax cuts will help spur economic growth
and provide the jobs the middle class in this country needs.
AND THE DEMS: On the same day John
Fund rehashes Susan Estrich's column from two weeks ago about
Bill and Hillary Clinton sucking up all of the media oxygen to
the detriment of the Democratic party, we find stories like this
with Carl Cameron's recent reporting out of early Dem primary
states of South
Carolina and Iowa.
Democratic primary voters are describing the crop of Dem presidential
hopefuls as "Tweetledee and Tweetledum" and generally
unimpressive. And then there was this from one Iowa voter:
Strickland, a lifelong Democrat and family physician, said not
only is he unpersuaded by the Democrats' current campaign push
for universal health care, politically he may swing to the other
would think I would vote for George Bush. I don't like Hillary
[Clinton], [former President] Bill Clinton was an embarrassment,
so I might even become a Republican," Strickland said.
this is the exception rather than the rule. But it doesn't bode
well for Democrats over the next 16 months that they don't have
a nominee with the charisma and star power to rival the Clintons
and that the polarizing former president and his wife seem genetically
incapable of keeping a low profile.
In the end,
however, next year the Dems will finally produce a candidate standing
alone, toe-to-toe in the limelight against Bush for the better
part of three months with the country paying close attention.
If the economy doesn't recover or the War on Terror goes badly
the Dems have every reason to believe it will be a competitive
election. But will the Clintons be able to hold their tongues
from Labor Day until November?
To all of you who were kind enough to send congratulations on
the new addition to our family. My favorite email also contained
a cautionary note:
a word of advice from a father of four, don't ever let your
wife hear of a reference to having a child as the easy way to
do anything. Kipling's Female of the Species is relevant, especially
the eighth verse. All happiness with the little one."
This is a
wise, wise man. And Kipling's
eighth verse does indeed hit the mark:
who faces Death by torture for each life beneath her breast
May not deal in doubt or pity -- must not swerve for fact or
jest. These be purely male diversions -- not in these her honour
dwells. She the Other Law we live by, is that Law and nothing
to all. - T.
Bevan 7:51 am
May 28 2003
EASY MONEY: My wife and I gave
ourselves a $1,000 tax break last week the easy way: we had
a baby. This should help explain my absence from the blog these
last few days, as well as provide a preemptive excuse for any
sleep-deprived rantings or errors that appear in this space in
the coming weeks.
by the way, is Abby.
REVIVAL: Can someone please take
DeWayne Wickham aside and explain to him the recency
effect? Not to mention the furious, continuous and sometimes
deceitful spinning employed by the public relations firm (specialized
department of historical revisionism) of Clinton, Clinton &
TIVO: If you don't have Tivo, buy one. If you do have Tivo,
then you know it sometimes will record shows it thinks you may
have an interest in watching based on your past taping patterns.
Since I usually record all of the political shows on the weekends,
the other day I ended up with a recording of To
to any of our faithful female readers, but I wasn't thrilled by
the show - it's difficult for me to get passionate about "a
discussion of issues from a variety of woman's perspectives."
The show's third segment, however, did serve to remind me why
Carol Mosley-Braun and those who think like her are a walking
disaster for Democrats:
This administration has been pandering to fear and division
so that the attention of the people is on issues of safety and
security and the face we are losing our privacy and liberties
in the process with this extreme right agenda. I mean, these
people are using the tragedy we all suffered on 9/11 as a cover,
a shield for an extreme right wing agenda.
Erbe: How would you characterize the progress of women and
minorities today in America - or lack thereof?
We are hanging on by our fingertips. You know the worst story
I've heard in recent times is that the state and states are
so pressed on their budgets and their budget deficits that some
states are holding on to child support payments in order to
balance their budgets on the float. Now, if you can imagine,
state governments taking money - taking food - literally out
of the mouths of babes in order to deal with the fiscal crisis
that this administration's failed economic policy have caused
- that's pretty bad news. All of those issues go to the very,
very, tenuous state for women in this country right now.
I want to
make sure I've got this straight: Bush is the one who panders
to fear, but Mosley-Braun says the president is "taking food
out of the mouths of babes" across the country and that women
and minorities are "hanging on by our fingertips." Women
in the richest, freest democracy on the planet in the 21st century
are in a "very tenuous state?"
mix of demonization and vicitimology seems to me to be particularly
Braun's silliness is a nice segue to Donald
Lambro's analysis in today's Washington Times. Al From and
Bruce Reed of the DLC are two Democrats who seem to realize just
how much of a train wreck the Dems could be headed for in 2004:
memo to Democratic leaders last week, Mr. From and DLC President
Bruce Reed attacked the party's liberal, activist base, which
they said was "defined principally by weakness abroad and elitist,
interest-group liberalism at home."
the wing that lost 49 states in two elections [in 1972 and 1984],
and transformed Democrats from a strong national party into
a much weaker regional one," they said.
Reed are battling to save the future of the Democrat party for
perhaps the next decade or more, but it's not at all clear whether
they will win.
Of the current
crop of candidates, only Joe
Lieberman truly gets it. But Lieberman isn't even on the radar
screen in Iowa
and is doing little better in New
Hampshire. He'll have to hope for a split among Dean/Kerry/Gephardt
in those states and then hold off Edwards and Graham in South
Carolina before taking Michigan.
It will be
an interesting battle to watch unfold.
CONTINUED: In a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations
yesterday, Rummy suggested Iraq's WMD's may
have been destroyed prior to the invasion.
reminds us of his
recent column on the subject of WMD's and the fact that finding
and accounting for them does, in fact, matter a great deal. We
agree. - T.
Bevan 7:39 am
May 27 2003
OF MASS DESTRUCTION: The New York Post's lead editorial on
Sunday was No
WMD's? So What? I have also heard a number of other conservatives
make this same argument and point to polls showing that the American
people would be supportive of the war even if no weapons of mass
destruction are found. But this rationale from the Post editorial
I find troubling and a dangerous argument for conservatives to
if weapons are never found? Does it matter? Not really. After
all, the world is clearly a safer place with Americans, and
not Saddam, running the show in Baghdad these days. Iraqis are
free. Saddam's games are over. As are the troubling uncertainties
about whether he might ever have - and use - WMDs. Plus, Washington
has huge new strategic leverage over this critical area.
someone who was strongly in support of the war, it matters to
me. Lest we not forget the principal reason we went to war in
Iraq was because of the threat Saddam's WMD created for us as
well as our friends and allies. Now that the war is over, and
was a great success, it is disingenuous to suggest it doesn't
really matter whether we find weapons of mass destruction or not.
Now, I am
more than willing to give our government plenty of time to figure
our where the WMD might be or what happened to Hussein's weapons
program. And I don't buy the hysterical arguments on the left
from the likes of Joshua
Marshall that the WMD argument was politically cooked up as
an excuse to invade
and occupy Iraq.
the protestations of Marshall, Senator
Byrd, and others on the left regarding WMD border on ridiculous,
that doesn't mean that it doesn't matter whether weapons of mass
destruction are found. It does matter. While
there was always more than one reason to affect regime change
in Iraq, the threat from Saddam's WMD program was in many ways
the only reason that mattered. In the post-9/11 world the public
is willing to support preemptive military action if it is taken
to safeguard the American people, and that is more or less the
case President Bush made to the nation.
that the Iraqi people are now free from the yoke of the brutal
Hussein dictatorship is a nice side benefit of the war. And there
are many other side benefits from our successful prosecution of
this war as well, but lets not kid ourselves about the real reason
for the war. Without the weapons of mass destruction argument
there would have been no war in Iraq. Now that the war is over
it is disingenuous for conservatives to suggest it doesn't matter
whether we find WMD.
Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, I believe we will find
those weapons or at least find evidence of what happened to the
weapons. But I would think this should be of concern to all Americans,
especially Americans who were supportive of the President's action
in Iraq. America's credibility is at stake here. We said this
man had WMD, we used the threat of his WMD as the principal rationale
in creating a coalition that would remove him from power.
it is frustrating to hear those on the left accuse the President
of deliberately misleading the nation and the world, but it is
foolish and shortsighted for those defending the administration
to suggest weapons of mass destruction do not matter. They do
matter. And like the early cries of 'quagmire' that flowed from
the left in the first days of the war, I suspect the hysterical
protestations regarding WMD today will appear just as foolish
with the passing of time. J.
McIntyre 7:55 am
May 26 2003
DEFICITS AND THE ECONOMY: Bruce Bartlett responds to Andrew
Sullivan's criticisms and my
post last week regarding deficits and the Bush tax cuts:
of spending is important and the level of taxes is important.
The difference between the two is not. Anything that lowers
taxes or spending is good; lowering both is better. But we should
not hold one hostage to the other, just as we should not make
the perfect the enemy of the good.
way to handle our long-term fiscal problems is by having the
strongest possible economy. Keeping taxes higher than necessary
in the name of fiscal responsibility is penny-wise, pound foolish.
The money will just get spent on prescription drugs or whatever.
When the crunch comes, there will be no more money in the till
than if taxes are not cut.
the entitlement problem needs to be solved on the benefit side.
Only enormous political pressure will bring this about. Large
deficits will help bring that about, I believe. Without them,
it will be too easy for Congress to raise taxes a little at
a time to keep the system going without major changes in structure.
tax cuts help both by increasing growth and by increasing deficits.
important line here is "the best way to handle our long-term
fiscal problems is by having the strongest possible economy."
That's exactly right. Growth balances budgets and more importantly
it balances budgets while growing jobs and wealth.
Or you could try to balance the budget today with higher taxes
and/or reduced spending which in turn would destroy the economy,
throw the country into a depression, and this is the great part,
make the budget deficit and the national debt considerably worse.
is also exactly right in suggesting that the "entitlement
problem needs to be solved on the benefit side. Only enormous
political pressure will bring this about." The reality is
barring extraordinary leadership only an economic crisis will
create the political environment where real entitlement reform
will be possible. In the interim deficits can actually produce
positive secondary benefits by working as a brake on the government's
insatiable desire to spend. J.
McIntyre 9:47 am