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Jewish World Review Aug. 5, 1999 /23 Av, 5759

David Corn

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We Are The Taxman -- DURING THE TAX CUT SKIRMISH in Congress these past few weeks, GOP tax cutters, like drones, kept repeating the same buzz phrase: we should trust the American people to spend their own money. No doubt, this defense of the various GOP tax cut proposals was concocted by consultants and test-driven by pollsters. It sure sounds good. But imagine if Republicans really believed that rhetoric. Then there would be no need for any taxes.

Follow their logic and you can conclude that each American on his or her own should decide how much to send to the Defense Department. After all, arenít you smart enough to know whether the United States needs one more B-2 bomber? Your money, your decision. Sure, let each American taxpayer decide whether to cough up a portion of his or her hard-earned paycheck for government subsidies for the sugar, ethanol, gas and nuclear industries. (McCain would like that.) Are you a fan of oil depreciation tax breaks? If so, mail Exxon a check. You like AIDS research? Send a money order to the National Institutes of Health.

You fancy having secure embassies overseas? Go to your bank and arrange a monthly electronic transfer to Madeleine Albright. Worried about Chinese spies stealing our precious nuclear secrets? Make a donation to the FBI. If you donít care about Africa, no problem; not a single penny of your money will go to foreign aid. Heating assistance for low-income elderly? Hold a telethon. Think Congress is mostly a bunch of losers?

You know what to do. Perhaps as a test of the people-know-best argument, GOP members of Congress can eschew any salary and wait for what comes in the mail. But no, sorry, that wouldnít work. The corporate lobbyists who received billions of dollars in special-interest tax breaks in the GOP tax bills would gladly cover any loss in the income of their Republican friends. Just ask Haley Barbour.

On a related matter: last week the House of Representatives, led by mad-dog Republican Bob Barr, voted to nullify a 1998 District of Columbia initiative that would decriminalize the medical use of marijuana. (Congress first voted to smother the initiative 13 days before it was held, prohibiting the counting of ballots. Exit polls showed it passed by 69-31 percent.) Whatís the connection to the tax cut tussle? Apparently, Republican legislators feel passionately that people are smart enough to spend their own money, but not sharp enough to decide whether marijuana should be used for medicinal purposes. Perhaps Barr and the rest are worried that if patients smoke too much dope they will no longer be able to spend their own money intelligently.

JWR contributor David Corn, Washington Editor of The Nation, writes the "Loyal Opposition" column for The New York Press.

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