- The Washington Times - Friday, April 6, 2001

For President Bush, it is all about take-home pay. His success or failure will be decided by how much money American workers wind up with at the end of the month. It is as simple and as complicated as that.
First up is the tax cut, which, despite the economic slowdown, remains a major ideological issue in this country. The New York Times is absolutely hysterical over the possibility of an across-the-board tax cut. I have never seen the Times so worked up. No way does that newspaper want affluent Americans to get a dime back from Uncle Sam. This issue is personal with the Times.
Mr. Bush seems to be coming at the tax cut from a philosophical point of view. He believes the government is taking too much money from the citizenry and this is bad for business all around. The more money the government gets, Mr. Bushs thinking goes, the more likely Congress will spend it on idiotic stuff. However, the more money the people have, the more likely it will be spent on goods and services, thereby propelling the economy.
I am on the presidents side here because I believe, based on 25 years of reporting, that the federal and state governments waste a colossal amount of tax money on programs that dont work, unneeded expenditures and entitlement money that is stolen. Right now in California, the medical program designed to help the states poorest citizens is losing about 25 percent of its funding to cheats and thieves. Just the apparatus California has to chase down these criminals costs the taxpayers north of $50 million dollars each year.
The politicians themselves have no interest in policing spending, and the General Accounting Office in Washington a department that is supposed to watch the tax-dollar flow cannot keep track of the trillions the government sends out.
Call up the GAO sometime and ask it for information. Its a riot. I asked that department to give me a dollar figure on Hillary Clintons travel expenditures while she was first lady. The clerk laughed. The GAO, it seems, has no idea how much money Mrs. Clinton spent zooming around the world and the country because so many different departments picked up parts of her tab. The truth is that no one in this country knows how much Sen. Clinton spent on travel, and no one ever will.
Many in Congress and in federal jobs dont much care where the money goes, as long as it is going someplace. There is an inexhaustible supply of tax dollars, and the money keeps those federal paychecks rolling and is also the key to vote buying. Promise the folks something in their Easter basket, and its a lot easier to get a vote. Bread and circuses.
Thirty years ago, the poverty rate in America stood at around 10 percent. Now its still at about 10 percent. All the programs, entitlements, housing projects and massive expenditures did little to dent poverty. Did the programs help some people? Certainly. Did the programs change the social landscape? Absolutely not. Only disciplined education and hard work can lift someone out of poverty. The government cant do it.
Mr. Bush and his advisers are conservative capitalists. The New York Times and many other Americans hate that. They want the government to save people who will not or cannot save themselves. They want big money rolling into Washington, and they dont care whether it is spent effectively or not. It is the intention, not the result, that matters.
California is the best example of what may be facing all Americans in the near future. If you are a working man on the California coast, you are in deep trouble. Home prices are among the highest in the nation, and your taxes are punitive. Now, energy costs are soaring. Your take-home pay is being gutted, and if you ever lose your job, look out below.
The environmental movement succeeded in stopping all energy development in the Golden State, and now there isnt enough power to satisfy the population. Most everybody, with the possible exception of some in the Bush Cabinet, wants a clean environment, but without power you cant operate in America. Life is a tradeoff, and Californians thought they could have it all. They wont stand for energy development, but they all want cheap energy. Talk about Hollywood fantasies. So, for now, "Left Coast" folks are taking a massive hit in the wallet, and the Bush administration is not going to bail them out.
Thats because the president wants to send Americans a message: You want more cash? Support a tax cut. You want more energy? Support drilling and fossil fuel plants and nuclear facilities. President Bush learned in Texas that take-home pay trumped the dirty air in Houston and the do-gooder social programs that the Lone Star State never even bothered with.
For the hard-eyed pragmatists currently in power, it is all about money in your pocket at the end of the month. And it will be for the next four years.

Bill OReilly is a nationally syndicated columnist and host of the Fox News show, "The OReilly Factor."

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