- The Washington Times - Monday, February 19, 2001

Just the other day on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, I met a little girl by the name of Jasmine Windley from Annandale, Virginia. Both of Jasmine's parents work her mom as a bus driver and her dad as a retail manager. The Windleys could use an extra $1,600 every year to start a college fund for Jasmine and open up other opportunities for her.

That same day I also met Marian Emano, a stay-at-home mom also from the Washington area. Marian, whose husband works as a cook, could really use an extra $1,600 each year to keep up with the costs of their two growing kids expenses such as new clothes, school supplies and braces.

For the Windleys, Emanos and millions of other American families, the real story behind President Bush's tax relief proposal is their personal story. For these families, $1,600 is a big deal that can make a real difference in their daily lives. That's why Congress will move expeditiously, before Memorial Day, to pass tax relief for everyone so this fair and responsible package can be signed into law by our nation's 225th Independence Day on July 4, 2001.

Lots of hardworking folks are simply frustrated that every day they go to work, punch the clock, put in a full day's work sometimes even overtime and still barely scrape by with each paycheck. Bills go unpaid and debt piles up. There's no money to save or invest. And, they never seem to be able to make it into the middle class. Taxes are always standing in their way.

Now that the president has sent his plan to Capitol Hill, the Congress must get down to work in order to infuse the tax code with a good dose of common sense by eliminating unfair taxes.

For instance, it's plain common sense that we enact across-the-board tax relief for all Americans so that everyone who pays taxes gets something back. Taxes are too high at all levels. We need to lessen that burden for every individual and not punish success.

It's common sense that the federal government should stop penalizing people for getting married. Ending the marriage tax is a moral imperative, not only a financial imperative.

It's common sense to double the per child tax credit to $1,000 so families can better handle the expenses that naturally arise when rearing kids.

It's also common sense to stop the death tax. Family farmers and small business owners need the peace of mind that once they die the IRS will not confiscate their farms and small businesses in order to pay taxes on the possessions they leave behind.

And don't believe the naysayers who outrageously claim we can't afford tax relief. Only days ago tax surplus estimates jumped $1 trillion to $5.6 trillion over the next ten years. And just this week, the House voted to lock away much of that tax surplus in a Social Security/Medicare lockbox to strengthen Social Security and Medicare. Even after that historic action, there is plenty of tax surplus left over to give Americans tax relief, pay off our national debt and increase resources for important priorities such as education and health research. Quite frankly, there's no legitimate excuse not to cut taxes and stimulate our economy.

In fact, White House Economic Adviser Larry Lindsey last week told a closed-door meeting of House Republicans in the Capitol that the best medicine for an ailing economy is broad-based tax relief specifically, cutting rates across-the-board, eliminating the marriage tax, doubling the child tax credit, and phasing out the death tax. Mr. Lindsey says that kind of fair and responsible package would stimulate the economy and create new jobs with higher wages in both the short and long term.

With these common sense changes, the average American family could keep $1,600 more of their own money each year, while one out of every five taxpaying families with children would no longer pay any taxes at all. Under the president's plan, lower to middle-income families benefit the most, while every American taxpayer would see some tax relief simply by lowering rates across-the-board. Single or married, with or without kids, everyone who pays taxes gets tax relief.

So remember, the real story behind Mr. Bush's tax-relief package isn't its overall price tag, but the real people it would help overall. As a Congress, it's time to rally around our new president, pass his tax-relief package into law and make a real difference in the real lives, hopes and dreams of Jasmine Windley, Marian Emano and millions of other taxpaying Americans from coast to coast.

Dennis Hastert, an Illinois Republican, is speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

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