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Jewish World Review March 6, 2001 / 11 Adar, 5761

Joseph Perkins

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Consumer Reports

'Figures don't lie, but liars do figure' -- PRESIDENT BUSH hit a home run with his State of the Tax Cut message to Congress, as evidenced by a CBS News poll in which two-thirds of those surveyed said they support his 10-year, $1.6 trillion plan.

Now the president has to touch all the political bases. And blocking his path are two grizzled old class warriors -- Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo.

"The president's plan is deeply unfair to middle-income Americans," lamented Daschle. "The wealthiest 1 percent" -- those boasting annual incomes of $208,000 or more -- "get 43 percent of the president's tax cut. It gives so much to so few that it will force tax increases or cuts in Social Security, Medicare and other essential programs."

The Democrats have a better plan, said Gephardt. It won't cut taxes so much. And it won't provide tax relief to all Americans. But it will give the party of Daschle and Gephardt more surplus tax dollars to spend down the road in the event they succeed in retaking Congress.

But at least one Democratic lawmaker believes such thinking by his party's leaders is shortsighted.

"I think the Democrats are making a terrible mistake by being against a tax cut," said the freshman Democratic senator from Georgia, Zell Miller, in an interview published this week in The Washington Times.

"I know that they are saying that they want tax cuts and want to make it more fair and everything, but their body language and what Joe Six-Pack hears out there in the Kmart parking lot is that they're against giving him a tax cut."

Indeed, despite the remonstrations by Mssrs. Daschle and Gephardt, most Americans are buying neither their class-warfare rhetoric nor their warning that the Bush tax cut will come at the expense of education, debt reduction and rescuing Medicare and Social Security from insolvency.

That's because, contrary to what the Democratic leadership apparently believes, the majority of Americans does not suffer from class envy. Also, the majority of Americans is unpersuaded that returning little more than a quarter of the projected $5.6 trillion budget surplus over the next 10 years will crowd out all other budget priorities.

In fact, when given a choice of four major budget priorities, 35 percent of those surveyed by CBS News preferred the president's tax cut; 25 percent preferred shoring up Social Security and Medicare; 22 percent were in favor of increased education spending; and 15 percent were for paying down the national debt.

So while the Bush plan has been characterized in some news reports as a "tough sell" to the public, it's really the Democrats' opposition to the Bush tax plan that is the tough sell, for the overtaxed American people welcome the president's across-the-board tax cut, especially if Congress makes it retroactive.

Nothing undermines the Democratic leadership's arguments against the Bush tax cut more than when the middle-income folk for whom they presume to speak calculate their tax savings under the president's plan. Consider the following example posted on the MSNBC Web site: A married couple with three kids; Dad brings home $35,000 a year; Mom earns $20,000. They have itemized deductions worth $8,000.

Under current law, they pay $3,454 in federal income taxes. Under the Bush plan, they would pay only $100. That's a $3,354 tax cut. A 97-percent tax savings.

Or how about the following example on the ABC News Web site: A single parent with two kids earning $30,000 a year. Under the current tax regime, she or he pays $1,310 to the IRS. Under the Bush plan, however, that single parent pays absolutely nothing. A 100-percent tax savings.

If you're that middle-income, married family, if you're that middle-income single-parent family, all you can say about the Bush tax cut is, Bring it on.

So Daschle and Gephardt will spend much of this spring trying to make the case to the American people that the Bush plan is really no good for them; that they really don't deserve so large a tax cut, even though $4 trillion (and quite possibly much more) in surplus tax revenue will be left over for Social Security, Medicare, debt reduction, education and other purposes.

Sen. Miller says that his Democratic Party leaders are being dishonest in attacking the president's tax cut plan.

"I've heard all of this before from the propeller heads when I was cutting taxes in my state as governor," he said. "I just do not believe all this gloom-and-doom talk. Figures don't lie, but liars do figure."

JWR contributor Joseph Perkins is a San Diego Union-Tribune columnist and television commentator. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


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