- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 1, 2001

In his speech before Congress and the nation Tuesday evening, President George W. Bush offered no surprises. He once again left no doubt that the 10-year, $1.6 trillion tax-relief proposal that formed the centerpiece of his successful presidential campaign was the plan he wanted Congress to enact. With post-election projected budget surpluses now reaching $5.6 trillion over the next decade, including more than $3 trillion unrelated to the cumulative Social Security surpluses, the most appropriate word to describe the size of Mr. Bush's proposed tax cut is "modest," a fact that has not prevented Democratic big spenders from relentlessly attacking the plan. Indeed, Mr. Bush proposes to allocate merely half of the non-Social Security surpluses for tax relief at a time when federal taxes now consume as large a share of annual economic output as they did at the height of World War II. Moreover, considering that the 1986 bipartisan tax reform legislation established a maximum income-tax rate of 28 percent, just how radical is Mr. Bush's plan, whose top rate would peak at a relatively hefty 33 percent?

Throughout his address Mr. Bush offered one common sense proposal after another. After four consecutive spending binges that raised discretionary spending by an average of more than 6 percent per year, Mr. Bush proposed to increase overall discretionary spending by 4 percent in fiscal 2002, still above inflation.

On the issue of national security, Mr. Bush was as emphatic Tuesday night as he had been throughout his campaign: "To protect our own people, our allies and our friends, we must develop and we must deploy effective missile defenses."

Under Mr. Bush's plan, federal spending for education would increase by 11.5 percent. However, states would be given greater flexibility allocating education funds where they believe they are most needed. If failing schools failed to improve, parents would be given other options, including the opportunity to attend private schools.

Mr. Bush was surely right when he asserted, "[T]he biggest test of our foresight and courage will be reforming Medicare and Social Security." He announced he would soon be forming a presidential commission to reform Social Security based on the principal that would "offer personal savings accounts to younger workers who want them." He called on Congress to act on the bipartisan framework for Medicare reform developed several years ago by Democratic Sen. John Breaux and Republican Rep. Bill Thomas.

Beyond reducing taxes and reforming entitlements, Mr. Bush's plan would retire $2 trillion of the publicly held national debt during the next 10 years, a feat that would result in "more debt [being] repaid more quickly than has ever been repaid by any nation at any time in history."

If Mr. Bush offered no surprises, neither did Democratic congressional leaders, who delivered their tired party's predictable response to his proposals. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle audaciously asserted that Mr. Bush's proposed tax cut "will consume nearly all of the available surplus," which totals $5.6 trillion. Even as the Democratic Party parades its "truth deficit," it is the Republican administration that has all the ideas and all the initiative.

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