- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 20, 2002

Sen. Ted Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, is arguably the biggest-spending politician in the history of the United States. There may be no member of Congress in either party whose spending initiatives are more responsible for our $4 trillion national debt than Ted Kennedy's.

For more than 30 years, Mr. Kennedy has been a major driving force in Congress for expansions in Medicare and Medicaid, food stamps and public housing, and hundreds of other pricey federal programs that have caused a quadrupling in the size of the budget since Ted's father bought him a seat in the United States Senate. He co-sponsored this year's dreadful education bill that will nearly double the federal education budget over the next five years.

The National Taxpayers Union has given Mr. Kennedy a lifetime F grade for his disservice to the taxpayers and his utter disregard for fiscal sanity.

So there is more than a little irony in Ted Kennedy now giving holier-than-thou lectures about fiscal responsibility. What's next, Arthur Andersen CEO Joseph Berardino preaching about business ethics?

Mr. Kennedy blasted the Bush tax cut from last May, blaming tax relief for the recession, the disappearing surplus, rising interest rates, higher unemployment, and just about the breakdown of Western civilization. But here's a short list of the logical inconsistencies in Mr. Kennedy's anti-tax cut screed:

• Mr. Kennedy blames a tax cut 75 percent of which has not even taken effect yet, for an economic downturn that began at least six months before the tax plan was even passed into law.

• Mr. Kennedy says tax cuts are causing higher interest rates when interest rates have fallen, not risen during the Bush presidency.

• Mr. Kennedy says the tax cut is responsible for the $150 billion reduction in the surplus in 2001, but the only tax cut that has taken effect so far has been the $40 billion tax rebate, which was the Democrats' own idea. Tax rate cuts can't possibly have caused the shrinkage of the deficit because tax rates haven't been cut yet. (You have to wait till 2005 or so for those cuts.)

Mr. Kennedy manages to slither to the left of Majority Leader Tom Daschle by calling for one of the largest tax increases in American history. Mr. Kennedy would raise income tax rates on the rich; he would resurrect the death tax; and even tax rates on many middle-income families would be raised in Mr. Kennedy's half-trillion dollar tax-boost scheme.

What we have here is Kennedy-economics. But it is certainly not John F. Kennedy economics. It was almost exactly 40 years ago when President Kennedy called for a 30 percent across-the-board income tax rate cut. President Kennedy argued that high tax rates were one of the primary deterrents to prosperity. He believed that without tax cuts, "it is a paradoxical truth we will never reach our industrial potential to balanced the budget." He said every American should receive a tax rate reduction, because "a rising tide of prosperity will lift all boats." There was none of this class warfare, hate-the-rich rhetoric that has become such an unhealthy obsession with his younger brother Ted and with Mr. Daschle and the current Democratic Party.

In fact, JFK's tax cut was a much larger tax cut for the rich than Mr. Bush's. JFK cut the top income tax rate from 91 percent to 70 percent. Mr. Bush only cuts the top tax rate from 40 percent to 35 percent. JFK understood what his little brother can't comprehend: that when the rich face lower tax rates, they will save, invest, work and hire more.

Ted Kennedy's speech on the evils of tax cuts, is not so much an indictment of the economic policies of Mr. Bush as it is the economic policies of his brother.

Sen. Kennedy has also introduced a new and baffling economic theory unknown and unarticulated until today. According to this Kennedy theory, the way to get out of a recession is to raise taxes on Americans so families can spend less, and the government can spend more. This new theory is inconsistent with classical economics, supply-side economics, and even Keynesian economics. Kennedy seems to be making the nonsensical argument that if we increase the tax penalties on investment, business expansion and job creation, we will get more investment, business expansion and job creation.

Mr. Kennedy's prescription for more economic recovery is not new, nor is it fiscally responsible. It is boilerplate liberalism: more government spending. On top of the 11 percent increase in government spending already approved by Congress for 2002, Mr. Kennedy seeks at least $50 billion more federal domestic expenditures for 2002. Apparently, Mr. Kennedy and his economic wise men are unaware of the catastrophic failure of these tax and spend policies in Japan.

The reassuring news for tax cutting Republicans is that they not only have economics on their side; they have politics on their side too. The latest CNN poll shows that by a 2 to 1 margin, voters oppose the Kennedy idea of terminating the Bush tax cut.

Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Daschle continue to push the Democratic Party further and further to the looney left away from the center ground that the Clinton New Democrats of the 1990s successfully captured for their party. The first rule of politics is that when your enemy is busy digging himself into a ditch, let him keep digging.

Stephen Moore is senior fellow at the Cato Institute.

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