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Jewish World Review Jan. 8, 2002 / 24 Teves, 5762

Michael Long

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Desperate Dems


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com -- THE way out of a recession is so obvious that the advice borders on platitude: Let people keep more of what they make. Get out of the way of market forces and consumer choice. And whatever you do, keep the interests of the people first.

Bush gets it. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and most elected Democrats don't.

To see the difference between their approaches to boosting the economy, look no further than Sen. Daschle's remarks on January 4, and President Bush's remarks on January 5.

"Not over my dead body will they raise your taxes," Bush said, and that pretty much sums up the speech. But Tom Daschle… ah, well. He delivered a lesson in the old political saw that the more words you trot out, the more baloney you're trying to truck in.

In a stem-winding 5000 words (to put that in context, you speak about 120 words a minute if you're talking fast), Daschle rewrote the history of the negotiation of the stimulus package, recast the 1990s with a penny-pinching Bill Clinton forcing budget surpluses down the gullets of spend-crazy Republicans, and reprised his favorite refrain that anyone who disagrees with him is Simon Legree foreclosing on the old folks' home.

In Daschle's speech, you won't hear anything about cutting taxes across the board. You won't read a word about trimming spending even a tiny bit. And you won't find a syllable asserting what Democrats hate to admit: money belongs to the people who spend their days earning it.

What you will find is camouflaged tax increases, accounting hooey and new spending under the laughably misleading rubric "targeted tax cuts" -- the tip of the sword for the Democrats' class warfare of the last election.

Before Christmas, the stimulus package was dead. Sen. Daschle accepted and then reneged on numerous negotiated economic stimulus deals in an effort to kill the package and blame the White House. Post-Christmas, things have changed, possibly because Sen. Daschle read some polls showing that the public saw his obstructionism for what it was.

So now he's back, and using the language of tax cuts to truck in not an economic package at all but his usual agenda: massive federal expansion. In the name of boosting "the eoncomy right now," Sen. Daschle calls for (nebulous) education reform, college cost subsidies, "training and lifelong learning" (the union bosses who pay for his campaigns will recognize that sop, and thank him), and - get this - federally-funded, high-speed Internet access.

Please. Who owns the Democrat party? Why can they not simply offer a package without larding it up with favors?

His obfuscation is understandable, if not entirely explainable. Since September 11, the Democrats have suffered embarrassment after embarrassment in their desperate effort to regain positive national standing outside the shadow of President Bush. From Sen. Robert Byrd's (D-WV) predictable attempt to stuff billions in pork into the homeland defense bill, to Bill Clinton's self-described "biggest mistake of my presidency" (sic) in releasing Osama bin Laden in a chartered C-130 in Qatar, the Democrats just can't get any traction. (Newsweek reports this week that Democrat leaders are now considering an election-year campaign comparing Christians to the Taliban. Memo to Daschle: Bring it on. We could use another 40 seats in the House.)

Even with all that, it's not hard to pick a crowning bit of self-aggrandizement by the post-September 11 Democrats: As the flying public urged -- begged -- the government to expand airport security after the attacks, Democrats refused to budge on legislation until they were guaranteed that new workers would be unionized and working for the federal government.

The Republicans did the responsible thing for wartime safety and let the Democrats have their way. Was it the smart thing for people who need might get those jobs? For keeping down the invasive power of government? For preserving the rights of workers to hold a job without being coerced to pay protection money to a union? No, no, and no. But it was the smart thing for the Democrats' contributors in Big Labor. Since the Democrats were holding hostage the safety of the skies, someone had to act like an adult.

If there is a silver lining in all this, it is that Democrats are now at least forced to make their arguments in conservative terms; that is, they have to sell new spending as "tax cuts." It's a good first step, but only a small one. After all, the last decade showed us just how flexible some Democrats are about the meaning of words. Myself, I'm doubtful of any Democrat's sentence whose consequences might hinge on what the meaning of the word "is" is.


JWR contributor Michael Long is a a director of the White House Writers Group. Comment by clicking here.

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© 2001, Michael Long