by Rod D. Martin
September 10, 1999

After almost five years of losing the communications war, Republicans are on the brink of getting one right. Dramatically right.

This summer, Congressional Republicans passed a nearly one trillion dollar tax cut. The plan, which would be phased in over ten years, would not require spending a penny of the Social Security surplus, and would amount to a mere 1% reduction overall. But the key word is “overall”: unlike Democratic plans that would “target” much smaller tax cuts for key groups they need to win the 2000 elections, the Republican plan would cut everyone’s taxes across the board, something not seen since the days of Reagan.

The Republicans finally managed to get their language right as well: they pointed out that this was not so much a tax cut as a refund of a tax overcharge. Over the next ten years, the average American family will pay $5,300 more in taxes than the government needs, even by its own over-inflated idea of “need”. If your light company charged you too much, said the Republicans, you’d certainly want your money back.

Of course, the Democrats howled.

Out came the bogus polls, claiming that Americans “didn’t want” a tax refund (honestly-worded polls showed the opposite). Out came the apoplectic cries of “irresponsibility”, as if somehow it is more responsible for government to take your money for new programs than for you to keep and spend it yourself. President Clinton claimed that the tax refund was “an assault on women” (something he ought to know a bit about), and Arkansas’ Vic Snyder thundered (incredibly) that a tax refund would “hurt veterans”. Democrat leaders in both Houses fretted aloud that the tax refund would gut America’s economic growth, completely ignoring Reagan’s tax cut fueled boom.

And of course it was that last point that caused the firestorm in the first place. Democrats are terrified of a tax refund precisely because of Reagan: Reagan’s 25% across-the-board tax cut created vast pressures to downsize government – or at least stop expanding it – while creating an economic boom that has undermined the Democrats’ ability to appeal to the poor.

Thanks to Reagan, America has had one (semi) recession in the past seventeen years, compared to an average of one every three years from World War II until 1982. It’s hard to preach class warfare to a majority which (as of April of this year) owns a minimum of $5,000 in stock each, or even to a minority that watches unemployment drop virtually every month. America is booming, seventeen years later, because of Reagan’s commitment to lower taxes and a sound monetary policy. And like social democratic parties across Europe, the Democrats know their program – their worldview – can’t long survive the horror of working people having more cash in their pockets.

So the President will veto the bill. He really has no choice.

But if Republicans have any sense, they’ll let him do just that. Republicans have been losing the communications war for five long, ugly years, and their wounds have been mostly self-inflicted. Their instincts are to compromise to get something, anything out of the President; but that just plays into his hands. The Republican proposal is already a minimum. Compromise here would just undercut their (correct) position in the eyes of the people, while letting Clinton posture as the statesman he most plainly is not.

So force him to veto the refund. Make him explain why he’d rather spend your money for “nation building” in Haiti instead of repealing the $155 billion marriage penalty. Make Tom Daschle tell us why he’d rather build new military housing in Russia than eliminate the cruel federal death tax. Make Snyder tell us why he’d rather have more money for UN “peacekeeping” than for a tax deduction for prescription drugs or tax-free interest on pre-paid college tuition accounts. Make Speaker-in-waiting Gephardt defend his support of more IMF funding for corrupt Russian oligarchs instead of a capital gains tax cut to grow small businesses here at home.

And when they can’t explain, send them all home next year with Clinton.

Let’s be honest: a phased-in, ten-year, 1% tax cut is a drop in the bucket, even if it is a trillion dollars. You deserve much better, something like Dick Armey’s plan to cut 10% off every federal tax, or Armey’s and Steve Forbes’ flat tax that’s a tax cut, giving you back your money while creating the first simple, fair federal tax system in a century. Cuts like that would shrink big government back to size and spark the greatest economic boom in the history of the world.

But this year’s plan was a heck of a start; and the left-wing Democrat ideologues flubbed the dub. Force the veto. And hold them to it all next year.