- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 30, 2000

It is an article of faith within today's Democratic Party that no time is the right time to reduce the nation's tax burden by any significant amount. Most congressional Democrats opposed Ronald Reagan's 1981 across-the-board tax cut ostensibly because the federal budget was in deficit. The middle-class tax cut that the Clinton-Gore campaign promised in 1992 magically evolved into an increase in the federal gasoline tax and a massive increase in the top marginal tax rate from 31 percent to 39.6 percent all in the name of reducing the budget deficit. It wasn't until Republicans gained control of Congress that the Clinton-Gore administration finally agreed to reduce taxes in 1997 under a compromise that projected a balanced budget by 2002, a feat that was accomplished in fiscal 1998.

With the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) now forecasting a cumulative federal budget surplus of $4.6 trillion from 2001 through 2010, including $2.2 trillion in non-Social Security surpluses, Democratic nominee Al Gore has proposed a miserly 10-year tax cut of $500 billion, nearly all of which is "targeted" to taxpayers Mr. Gore has deemed worthy of their relative pittance. In reality, much of Mr. Gore's supposed tax relief constitutes thinly disguised transfer payment schemes to redistribute money to people who pay no federal income taxes. By contrast, Republican nominee George W. Bush has offered authentic tax relief totaling $1.3 trillion through 2010.

According to Mr. Gore's calculations, the Bush plan amounts to a "risky scheme" that would jeopardize the nation's newfound fiscal health. In fact, it is Mr. Gore's tax-and-spend proposals that would truly threaten the projected surpluses. According to a recent analysis by the nonpartisan National Taxpayers Union (NTU), in addition to the inadequate, poorly crafted tax relief of $500 billion he has proposed, the cumulative effect of Mr. Gore's proposed spending amounts to a staggering $2.3 trillion over 10 years. Together, his tax-and-spending proposals would total $2.8 trillion, exceeding the 10-year, non-Social Security cumulative surplus by more than a half-trillion dollars. For his part, Mr. Bush has made new spending commitments totaling $425 billion over 10 years, according to the NTU study. The tax-and-spending proposals offered by Mr. Bush total less than $1.8 trillion, leaving more than enough cushion to protect the nation's fiscal health against the onset of new budget deficits over the next decade. Thus, notwithstanding Mr. Gore's demagoguery about Mr. Bush's "risky schemes," it is his plan that would more than wipe out the surpluses forecasted by the CBO.

As Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has argued on several occasions, it is far preferable to return the surplus to taxpayers, where, incidentally, it originated, than to use it to underwrite massive new spending programs and excessively increase others. Mr. Gore's proposal fails on both counts. U.S. taxpayers can't afford it.

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