As the children head back to school in our nation's capital, one hopes they have good teachers to school them in the basics of civics and simple arithmetic. Apparently these are things many of their parents don't understand.
We're heading into another autumn of appropriations, and the debate is taking on that entirely too familiar tone. Once again, there is simply not enough money in Washington to do what is good and right and decent to do. Despite being wrong on nearly everything, leftist economist John Kenneth Galbraith's mantra of "public squalor," a government forever impoverished of its truly deserving largesse, still reigns in the newsrooms. Heresy is defined by questioning the notion that a taxpayer dollar, once sent to Washington, is forever the property of Washington and cannot be returned even if the taxpayer overpaid by hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars.
Here's another way to put it: the only good tax cut is a dead tax cut. Second best is the repealed one.
Now that federal revenues are no longer sloshing into Washington to create unprecedented surpluses beyond the sugar-plum dreams of the politicians, the liberal elite is horrified that Congress ever allowed a tax cut to pass in the first place, and this includes those ridiculous rebate checks still landing in mail boxes. To their thinking, Democrats were worthless and weak, and the loss must be avenged!
The orthodoxy was established by NBC's Tim Russert, the same man who liked to despoil restaurant napkins to prove to dining companions that the Reagan tax cuts were farcical. After pummeling Bush budget director Mitch Daniels with the latest calculations from the socialists at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, he asked Sen. John Kerry about the need for a "trigger," or a tax cut repeal. Kerry agreed, but then blew it. He suggested the sluggish economy might benefit from a tax cut on capital gains. Russert was horrified: "Another tax cut?!" He did everything but throw a glass of water in Kerry's face to snap the man out of his delusion.
NBC "Today" starlet Katie Couric insisted to Howard Fineman: "The bitter reality is that there's now almost no money for either party's priorities, and that complicates everything. So aren't all these discussions almost moot points?" That hyperbole is perfect Washington talk. There are almost two trillion dollars squeezed out of our paychecks, yet the liberals are still whining about having "almost no money."
As usual, CBS anchor Dan Rather took the cake with his hurricane-intensity hyperbole: "In the showdown between President Bush and his Democratic opposition in Congress over budget priorities, who blew the surplus and who's to blame for the sluggish economy and threats to Social Security and Medicare?"
Rather might think this is fairly balanced, since it doesn't declare Bush to be unilaterally blameworthy. But blameworthy of what? With a $168 billion "Social Security surplus", how are Social Security and Medicare threatened? As for the surplus, it's not like losing China or Vietnam. Losing the surplus is a desirable move, if Washington's pork banquet loses a few hambones.
Over on ABC, White House correspondent Terry Moran mysteriously insisted that this was budget crunch time with the electoral survival of Republicans on the line. (Why underline the precariousness of the GOP? Were the Democrats all given lifetime appointments?) Moran lamented: "The budget numbers tell a grim story. Both the White House and congressional estimates show the surplus, excluding Social Security revenues, has virtually vanished. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, emerging from a meeting with the President, insisted Mr. Bush spell out precisely where and what he would cut from the budget."
Fortunately, the National Taxpayers Union has come to the rescue with the real fiscal picture the media won't paint. Far from starvation and cutbacks, the gluttonous federal government's total outlays are headed nowhere but up, from $1.51 trillion in 1995 to $1.86 trillion this year, an increase of a whopping 22 percent.
Over the next five fiscal years, total federal outlays are scheduled to increase by another 20 percent, from $1.8 trillion to $2.2 trillion. The NTU numbers show that it's rampant spending, not tiny tax cuts, that are threatening surpluses. If all the bills introduced in both chambers during the last Congress had passed, they would have increased spending by $973 billion a year. NTU expert Eric Schlecht explains: "In other words, the Bush tax cut will save taxpayers $511 billion between 2002 and 2006, while the 106th Congress proposed to spend $4.9 trillion over the same period - thereby reducing the surplus by nearly 10 times that amount."
Does that sound to you like it's tax cuts that are bringing fiscal insanity to our land? Even school children can figure out this math.