- The Washington Times - Friday, January 11, 2002

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, evidently believes that if he screams "fiscal discipline" loudly and often enough, then people will eventually believe that he actually endorses the idea. For example, Mr. Daschle repeatedly peppered his recent economic-policy speech with references to "fiscal discipline." But that would be the same Mr. Daschle who just last month forced the Senate to spend the last two weeks of the 107th Congress' first session futilely trying to push through a $73.5 billion increase in farm subsidies. Meanwhile, as the Senate was wasting its time debating legislation for a program that would not expire for another nine months, the White House and House of Representatives were vigorously pursuing an economic-stimulus package to counter the recession that began in March. Scheduling a vote on the stimulus package, however, proved to be too much for the obstructionist Senate majority leader.
In Mr. Daschle's lexicon, the phrases "fiscal discipline" and "fiscal integrity" have only one definition: maintaining federal tax revenues, measured as a percentage of economic output, at their highest levels in more than 50 years. That is the only conclusion one can draw from his attack on President Bush's tax-relief program, which Congress passed last year in a bipartisan vote. The idea of spending restraint is as foreign to the farm-state senator as Canadian wheat. That explains why the path he advocates toward the resumption of economic growth is littered with one dubious government i.e., spending program after another. Typically, Mr. Daschle describes a major expansion of ill-conceived, ineffective "training" programs and the provision of universal broadband access as "urgent investments" in his "comprehensive new plan for economic growth." None of this, of course, violates "fiscal discipline" in Mr. Daschle's world.
For all the animus Mr. Daschle directed at the tax cut in his speech, he failed to muster the courage to call for its repeal. This is truly startling, inasmuch as he blamed the tax cut for a slew of economic problems, including, believe it or not, the fact that it "fail[ed] to prevent a recession." That would have been a neat trick, since the recession began in March and the tax-relief bill wasn't signed until June.
By that logic, Mr. Daschle might as well have argued that the tax cut failed to prevent a drop in industrial production. But then he would have had to deal with the inconvenient fact that industrial output peaked seven months before Mr. Bush took the oath of office and had declined nine consecutive months before the tax cut became effective. Of course, such inconvenient facts utterly refute Mr. Daschle's obvious political intention, which is to pin blame for the recession on Mr. Bush and the tax cut. Indeed, truly indicative of Mr. Daschle's hare-brained economic ideas is his assertion that the tax cut "probably made the recession worse." If that were true, then isn't Mr. Daschle acting irresponsibly by not calling for its repeal? He can't have it both ways.

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