- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 13, 2001

Picking up where Ronald Reagan left off, President George W. Bush last week introduced his plans for fair and responsible tax relief for everyone who pays income taxes. His tax plan will spur economic growth and reduce the tax barriers that keep low income Americans from accessing the middle class. Among other things, the proposal would:

• Reduce the marriage penalty and eliminate the death tax.

• Double the child tax credit to $1,000 and expand the charitable tax deduction.

• Replace the current five-rate tax structure with four lower rates of 10, 15, 25, and 33 percent.

• Make permanent the research and development tax credit.

The genius of the proposal is that it goes beyond a simple rate-reduction. Mr. Bush puts teeth into his compassionate bite by making his tax relief charitable, family-friendly, and child-supportive. It's also good for small businesses and entrepreneurs.

We needed tax relief yesterday. Putting more money in the hands of consumers and small businesses is the right medicine for an ailing economy. It's also how the United States led the way in economic performance throughout the last century. The wealth that a nation enjoys is created, not by government programs, but by hardworking individuals encouraged to invest in a free society. As recent history has demonstrated, countries that have low taxes, limited regulation, and open trade grow faster, create more jobs, and enjoy higher standards of living than countries with big, centralized governments and high taxes. People succeed when they are given a stake in the outcome.

I'm delighted to see our new president embrace tax relief in his first month of office. For eight years, we worked under storm clouds of resistance from the Oval Office, always ready to veto even the least of our tax proposals. This year, it's as though the clouds have been lifted. Thanks largely to the fiscally responsible work of Congress over the last six years, we now have a surplus large enough to pay down the government debt and return some of the money at the same time. As a result, Mr. Bush enters the White House with budget surpluses almost twice the size of those anticipated during his campaign.

I've been in this town long enough to know that if you leave money on the table in Washington, sooner or later the government is going to spend it. Every surplus dollar we fail to return to the people simply stays in Washington. That means funding more government programs that will eventually have to be maintained by taking more money from families and small businesses. None of this is good for the economy, which is now stalled near a zero percent growth rate, according to Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan.

Instead, today's record surplus gives us a small window to provide broad tax relief before the surplus is gobbled up by the insatiable appetite of big government. Putting tax dollars back into the hands of families, consumers, small businesses, and investors can only help an ailing economy.

Testifying before the Senate Budget Committee last month, Mr. Greenspan said the surplus is large enough to reduce debt and cut taxes. "It is far better, in my judgment, that the surpluses be lowered by tax reductions than by spending increases," Mr. Greenspan said, admitting that his views on tax reduction have changed.

In the week that Mr. Reagan turned 90, Mr. Bush served up a bold and truly Reaganesque proposal. By offering new incentives for Americans to save, invest, and contribute money to churches and charities, the Bush tax plan asks the same fundamental question posed by Mr. Reagan 20 years ago: Why shouldn't taxpayers have more control over the money their hard work produces?

Which is exactly what the president's tax proposal does. It gives back a part of the surplus which is, after all, the people's money before the government gets a chance to spend it. Simply put, this is a choice between squandering your surplus tax dollars on a bigger Washington at the expense of our economy, or putting some of that tax money back into the hands of taxpayers where it will help our economy. I choose the later.

Steve Largent is a Republican of Oklahoma.

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