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Jewish World Review July 14, 1999/ 1 Av 5759

David Limbaugh

David Limbaugh
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GOP must be a party of ideas -- THE NEW HOUSE REPUBLICANS plan to reduce income taxes by a meager 10 percent is being touted as bold and promising. In fact, it is neither. At best, it is a faint-hearted compromise.

During the last six years, Bill Clinton and congressional Democrats have so successfully demonized Republicans that they have become afraid of articulating conservative ideas for fear of being branded compassionless or worse.

The Republican proposal to reduce increases in Medicare spending, for example, was spun as an assault on the elderly, rather than a responsible measure aimed at curbing runaway entitlement spending.

Just last week, Clinton, in advocating a Patients' Bill of Rights -- the sheer title should make constitutionalists and conservatives bristle with alarm -- described it as a matter of life and death. The implication is that those who oppose his latest scheme to expand government will be choosing to let people die because of their own greed.

Republicans are never going to defeat Clinton in a propaganda war. He, and the Richard Gephardts and Tom Daschles, will continue to demagogue the issues and vilify Republicans because their ideas alone will not convince the people. Only by injecting emotionalism into the debate, through class warfare, racial overtones or the like, can the Democrats prevail on the issues.

Liberal commentators are guilty of the same thing. The Wall Street Journal's Al Hunt, in decrying the Republican tax-cut proposal, concluded his latest column by opining that "the tax-cutters won't get their way because of their own overreaching greed."

Liberals will continue to depict champions of freedom as avaricious scoundrels as long as it works politically.

Republicans have become so gun-shy that they don't even advance large ideas anymore. Their proposed bills are already so diluted that they more closely resemble compromise legislation than daring new initiatives.

Specifically, their tax-cut plan is so half-baked that it barely whets the appetite of supply-siders. Even so, it lends itself to the charge that it caters to the wealthy.

Since Democrats are going to launch class warfare against any such proposals, the Republicans might as well go all the way with a substantive income tax cut, such as the 30 percent across the board reduction endorsed by Dan Quayle, plus major reductions in capital gains and estate tax rates.

Don't hold your breath. The current Republican leadership doesn't appear to believe in the concept anymore. It was only because of the projected surpluses that they had the courage to resurrect the tax cut idea.

How can we expect leadership, much less bold leadership, from Republicans when they no longer truly believe in the ideas behind their proposals?

If Jack Kemp were still in Congress he wouldn't be apologizing for the tax-cut proposal, nor trying to piggyback it onto a projected budget surplus. He would not be engaging in such zero-sum game fallacies. These Republicans are not compassionless , but they may indeed be passionless.

They should explain that reductions in the capital gains tax rate will, as always, increase revenues. The same is true for reductions in the marginal income-tax rates. As for the estate tax, everyone knows that its primary purpose is not to generate revenue (because it yields relatively little), but to confiscate private property.

Republicans need to take their case for tax cuts to the American people boldly and unapologetically. If they expect to remain the party of ideas then they need to begin articulating their thoughts instead of sounding like a bunch of glorified bean-counters.

They must clarify such basic things as:

-- across the board reductions in tax rates are inherently fair

-- they do not disproportionately benefit the rich, as has been charged;

-- these reductions will not have to be paid for by surpluses because they will be revenue neutral or revenue enhancing;

-- Clinton's confiscatory fiscal policies are not responsible for eliminating the budget deficit (any more than Reagan's tax cuts were responsible for increasing it), nor for the economic growth we've experienced under his tenure (which, apart from the stock market, has not been as robust as during the Reagan years).

If Republicans want to recapture the enthusiasm of their conservative base and the American people, they better demonstrate that they still believe in the ideas that differentiate them from Democrats.

The GOP should quit imitating the Democratic Leadership Council. Reagan, not Clinton, should be their model. They should deep-six their current plan in favor of a real tax-cut bill and aggressively advocate its passage in the context of economic growth, opportunity and freedom.

JWR contributor David Limbaugh is an attorney practicing in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and a political analyst and commentator. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


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