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Jewish World Review May 31, 2001 / 9 Sivan, 5761

Jim Wooten

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In New South, Jeffords defection will force voters in next senatorial race to decide which of two starkly different views of government will prevail -- ATLANTA | Last week's decision by Vermont's James Jeffords to align party preference and voting tendencies will have a dramatic impact on next year's U.S. Senate races, especially in the South.

For starters, the moderate center did not gain. Vermont was a state represented in Congress by a Republican, a Democrat and a socialist --- and they vote essentially alike. Mainstream Southerners will not like the politics that results from the change in Senate control.

Having the very liberal Vermont Democrat, Patrick Leahy, or Delaware's Joe Biden presiding over the selection of federal judges and Massachusetts' Ted Kennedy shaping federal involvement in education, for example, will starkly define party differences. The Senate's greatest pork-barreler, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, will keep watch over appropriations.

This is not good news for U.S. Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.), who faces re-election next year.

Suddenly, the stakes become considerably larger than one senator. The stakes now are those that existed for the nation last November when, without exception, the South and border states voted for George W. Bush. The appalling resistance to tax cuts from the national Democratic Party, and the absolute determination to preserve excess tax collections for new and expanded federal spending programs, is the agenda voters rejected just seven months ago.

Admittedly, the nation is approaching a divide. According to the Heritage Foundation, taxpayers and nonfilers with incomes below $30,000 in the past fiscal year receive a dollar in federal spending for every 10 cents they pay in taxes. Over 34 percent of those who file returns pay no income tax.

The top 50 percent of taxpayers, those earning more than $25,491 per year, pay 95.8 percent of the tax burden, according to 1998 data compiled by the Tax Foundation.

Even now, says Patrick Fleenor, the Tax Foundation's chief economist, more than half the total population pays no income tax at all. "There are fewer and fewer people paying taxes," he says. "Since 1986, more and more people have fallen off the tax rolls. The poor don't pay now and with the child credit in the Bush bill, that threshold is moving into the middle class."

The nation, then, is approaching the line where the constituency for expanded programs and services, for the cultivation of a welfare state, is greater than the constituency for containment.

The country's politics are playing out on that divide. National Democrats, convinced that the tax-takers are more prominent than the taxpayers, are now in a position to push their party's agenda --- and, with a Senate majority, to promote activist judges who share their worldview. Dreams have come true.

These weeks since the November elections have been truly bizarre. Democratic partisans and their commentators have simply luxuriated in denial, declining to acknowledge the election's end and its outcome. Like the aged beauty queen who spends her life in darkened rooms replaying the reels of her vanished youth, the political left replays Florida, or the popular vote, gloomily fantasizing and, on those fantasies, constructing new realities. As they twist and turn, reorienting the world to the results they crave, the dementia takes hold: Al Gore really won. The American people really did prefer them, but were charmed and tricked by the convivial dunce.

And now, at last, Jeffords has made it so. He has reversed the election, empowering Democrats to implement the policies, and bring forth the public officials and judges they are convinced are best for America.

Next year's Senate race in Georgia, then, is about which of two starkly different views of government will prevail.

Comment on JWR contributor Jim Wooten's column by clicking here.

04/13/01: High Court grants another building block in the case for faith-based involvement in addressing the nation's social ills
03/29/01: It's tough being an adult in the land of sound bites and transfer payments
03/22/01: End Bar Association's say on nominees to federal bench
02/27/01: Stop punishing those who live responsibly
01/23/01: The language of opposition turns vicious
01/12/01: Practicing what she preaches was Chavez's only offense
12/14/00: Our divided nation --- and those who caused it
12/07/00: Honest labor is for chumps who can't talk and politic their way to wealth


© Jim Wooten