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Between the Lines

September 01, 2004

Bush's economic agenda for a second term

It'll be a lot more bad news for the middle class, according to an enlightening piece by John Cassidy in The New Yorker. There'll be a low-key, but concerted push toward a "flat tax," probably via a national sales. That may not be politically attainable in one big leap, so they'll seek to get there via baby steps – each of which will cost us. Read it and hold onto your wallet. Oh, yeah – vote, too.

… in downplaying the Bush Administration’s economic agenda the media is missing one of the biggest domestic stories of the 2004 campaign. When the President pledges to create an “era of ownership,” he is not talking merely about encouraging people to buy their own homes and start small businesses. To conservative Republicans who understand his coded language, he is also talking about extending and expanding the tax cuts he introduced in his first term; he is talking about allowing wealthy Americans to shelter much of their income from the I.R.S.; about using the tax code to curtail the government’s role in health care and retirement saving; and, ultimately, about a vision that has entranced but eluded conservatives for decades: the abolition of the graduated income tax and its replacement with a levy that is simpler, flatter, and more favorable to rich people.

Work on achieving this ambitious program began with the tax cuts that Congress passed in 2001, 2002, and 2003, but the conservative economists who advise Bush and the right-wing institutes that support him have more in mind than consolidating their gains. Despite a gaping budget deficit, they are pressing the President to continue down a route that will reverse almost a century of American history. Since the personal income tax was introduced, in 1913, it has been based on two principles: the burden of taxation is distributed according to the ability to pay; and capital and labor carry their fair share. The Bush Administration appears set on undermining both of these principles.

Rather than coming right out for a flat tax, the Harvard economists [who support a flat tax] tend to use the less politically charged term “consumption tax.” Flat taxes and consumption taxes are closely related: both exempt saving and tax spending. Theoretically, it is possible to set up a progressive consumption tax, but most conservative economists favor a single rate set as low as possible; i.e. a flat tax. Such a system would penalize middle-class people, who spend nearly all the money they earn; a fact Hall and Rabushka, the originators of the flat tax, were straightforward about. In 1983, they wrote that a flat tax “would be a tremendous boon to the economic elite,” adding that “it is an obvious mathematical law that lower taxes on the successful will have to be made up by higher taxes on average people."

Higher taxes on average people. More of that "compassionate conservatism" our president epitomizes.

Posted by tbrown at 01:03 PM

Loving Alan Keyes

A few weeks ago, when the GOP drafted Alan Keyes to carpetbag over to Illinois and run against the Dem's man of the hour, Barack Obama, for U.S. Senate, I wondered what they could possibly be thinking. Keyes is smart and entertaining and a fine speaker, but he is out there, and pitting him against a mainstream guy like Obama didn't make sense to me. Especially since one of Keyes' most attractive characteristics is that he can be relied on to say exactly what he thinks. So how's it going? Well, good for the D's, such as here:

Keyes' first comments about Mary Cheney came during an interview Monday night on Sirius OutQ, a New York-based satellite station that provides 24-hour gay and lesbian programming.

After Keyes told the hosts that homosexuality is "selfish hedonism," he was asked whether Mary Cheney is a "selfish hedonist."

"Of course she is," Keyes replied. "That goes by definition. Of course she is."

On Tuesday, Keyes defended his remarks, adding that if his daughter were a lesbian, he would tell her she was committing a sin and should pray about it.

So living your life and minding your own business, which as nearly as I can tell is Mary Cheney's real agenda, is "selfish hedonism." This seemed to be a bit much even for staunch GOP officials.

Illinois Republican Party Chairwoman Judy Baar Topinka said Keyes' remarks about Vice President Dick Cheney's daughter shouldn't distract from key election issues.

"It's a pity that we have gotten away from the substance of the campaign and instead have gotten into personalities and things that are personal and name-calling," Topinka said. "Since this is amongst Republicans, it really needs to stop and get on course."

When informed of Keyes' comments about Mary Cheney, Bush-Cheney campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt offered a terse reply Tuesday.

"It was inappropriate," he said.

Yeah, what-ev, as my daughter would say.

The real problem is that rather than being the big tent for diverse ideas it used to claim to be, the GOP has become, increasingly, a pup tent for busy-bodies who really about nothing so much as trying to control other people's lives. This a big country with lots of people who believe lots of different things. The last thing we need is a domestic Taliban enforcing the "truth." Besides, it's not like Keyes doesn't have his own issues:

Rick Garcia, director of Equality Illinois, a nonpartisan gay rights group, said Keyes' views are not representative of the state's Republicans nor Democrats.

"Selfish hedonism? Has anyone seen Dr. Keyes look at a microphone or a television camera? That's hedonism," Garcia said.

Posted by tbrown at 01:00 PM

One more Swift Vet heard from ...

... and it's not John Kerry he's mad at (thanks to reader Bill L. for the link).

Posted by tbrown at 12:10 PM

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Bush's economic agenda for a second term
Loving Alan Keyes
One more Swift Vet heard from ...


Blogs to watch

Abu Ardvark
Andrew Sullivan
Atrios Eschaton
Best of the Web
Drudge Report
Joe Conason (subscription required)
Josh Marshall
Kaus files
No More Mr. Nice Blog
Real Clear Politics
The Corner
The Volokh Conspiracy
The Whiskey Bar

Mideast blogs

Salam Pax (Iraq)
G. in Baghdad
L.T. Smash (U.S. military in Iraq)
Lady Sun (Iran)

City blogs

L.A. Examiner

Africa blogs

Cathy Buckle

Media blogs

Dan Gillmor's eJournal
Media Whores Online


Newspapers online (guide to papers on the web)
International Herald Tribune
The Guardian U.K.
New York Times (free registration required)

Economy blogs

Brad DeLong

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