Monday, September 19, 2005

Raise Bill Clinton's taxes!

There is a developing leadership vacuum in D.C.

George W. Bush's poll numbers remain at the 40 percent line, with majorities disapproving of his Iraq and Katrina responses, CNN.

Bush has ruled out a tax increase to fund the massive rebuilding effort for Katrina. His predecessor does not agree (From CNN). Bill Clinton thinks Democrats need to make this an issue in 2006 and 2008. He also mentions the impact that tax cuts have on foreign policy:

"[W]e're pressing the Chinese now, a country not nearly as rich as America per capita, to keep loaning us money with low interest to cover my tax cut ... Iraq, Afghanistan, and Katrina. And at the same time to raise the value of their currency so their imports into our country will become more expensive, and our exports to them will become less expensive."

But, unless Clinton eyes an open Senate seat, there is little reason to believe that the Democrats will seize upon this strange deficit spending and call for more prudent government. As the Note notes:

Nearly every Democrat in Congress is still on the merits in favor of not just stopping the extension of some of the Bush tax cuts, but is in favor of rolling many others back — but they are still afraid to say so and unable to make their case, despite the fact that polls (continue to) show public opinion on their side.

Instead of taxes, Bush wants to cut spending. Mike Allen, writing in TIME, outlines how hard a sell massive spending and budget cuts will be in the Republican Congress:

This aide said that the “conservatives were extremely hesitant about the initial jackpot, and they are even more worried about another” installment of Katrina spending. So what to do? Pence picked up the suggestion by several conservative commentators of forswearing the 6,000 pork projects in the highway bill passed this summer. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has suggested individual lawmakers offer to give up their own projects, known as earmarks. Pence also said he thinks the house “ought to take a really hard look at delaying implementation of the new prescription drug entitlement” for Medicare recipients.

One of the House leadership aides was extremely skeptical of the idea. “How do you stop a freight train?” But another top aide said it would be discussed, showing just how direly the fiscal situation is regarded in the Republican conference.

Blended in the pork and the momentum of massive legislation, you also see the rising tide of Conservative angst over the deficit. From the Economist:

It also seems to have turned him into something resembling a big-government Democrat. In his speech he mentioned “deep, persistent poverty” with “roots in a history of racial discrimination”, and said that money will go to encourage minority-owned businesses. There will also be “worker recovery accounts” for training and education. None of these programmes will come cheap.

And their conclusion:

Though many Americans, black and white, greeted Mr Bush’s address from New Orleans warmly, if he wants to avoid becoming a lame duck in his second term he will need to claw back the conservative support that won him two elections.

With weak approval ratings, a mid-term election that may swing on the economy or Iraq -- two danger points for the president and therefore his party and his legacy -- the most baffling vacuum in leadership has got to be among the Democrats.

I suppose that they do not want to hint at more taxes, lest they be called a "tax and spend liberal", but Katrina would provide ample political cover (and God forbid there be any more) to redefine a lot of government programs in a more progressive way.

Why do you think George W. Bush is drafting "personal accounts" into social progress for the poor? Why do you think he is grasping at the conservative arsenal of social programs, like school vouchers, tax cuts, a Homestead Act (WOW!) and low interest loans?

When there is a natural disaster the populus demands more from government -- demands more government. No doubt, a lot of people have an uncomfortable feeling in their gut about the reaction from FEMA, Homeland Security, Bush, Blanco and Nagin.

There is an opportunity to blend classic progressive measures with that grab bag to which Bush has resorted. In addition to personal accounts for job training and to support businesses, let's add federal rebuilding efforts to give good paying jobs to union workers. David Brooks' made the analogy that this could be Bush's Tennessee Valley Authority -- which was more of a metaphor than any policy analysis. Well, Mr. Brooks, Bush is going to need some votes from the left to make this happen.

Let's force a Gulf Coast Authority on him. Let's make the president add some true progressive government opportunity to his Opportunity Zone. If Bush's ideas are not managed well, they could lead to opportunity only for the well-established upon their return: vouchers to take a few grand off your son's prep. school, or a business break to buy a few SUVs for your "fleet" that serves joint-duty at weekend Little League games.

Progressive ideas work from the bottom up, in reality not just in rhetoric. Augment those initiatives with opportunity for the lower- and upper- Middle class -- perhaps even grow the middle class. I know how we can pay for it too, we can raise Bill Clinton's taxes.

Oh, and one more thing. Recall what William Safire said as he neared the end of his stint as a New York Times' columnist:

This imbalance will ultimately trigger Rayburn's law: "When you get too big a majority," said Speaker Sam Rayburn, a Democrat, after F.D.R.'s 1936 landslide, "you're immediately in trouble."


Blogger Bassizzzt said...

We talked about the lacking of leadership on the way in to work this morning. Bush's biggest problem is that he is just not a good politician. He doesn't carry himself in speeches unless it's scripted. He knows he's headed for lame-duckdom.

If you're disappointed, think how this conservative feels.

9:26 AM  
Blogger copy editor said...

I guess you are right. No, you are obviously right. We lack a lot of good leadership today.

In other news, have you read Time's article by Joe Klein. I have an increasingly bad feeling about the war on terror.

9:45 AM  

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