- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 3, 2002

In the face of a dramatic economic slowdown that was officially classified as a recession in November, Democrats spent the second half of 2001 fighting for major spending increases across the board from homeland "security" to education to farm subsidies. Indeed, the slowdown, which began in 2000, has been so swift and pervasive that the economic contraction has reduced revenues in far greater amounts this budget year than President Bush's well-timed tax cut, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Meanwhile, the Democratic-inspired breakdown in general spending restraint has been occurring at the same time that justifiable spending increases in other areas became necessary in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks. As a consequence, where federal budget surpluses were forecast early last year, federal budget deficits are projected over the next few fiscal years.

With control of both the Senate and the House up for grabs in congressional elections this year, it should hardly be surprising that Democrats are now attempting to blame the evolving budget deficits on Mr. Bush in general and the 10-year, $1.35 trillion tax cut he spearheaded last year in particular. This is a debate worth having. And it is a debate in which the arguments on behalf of those who voted for the tax relief, including 12 Democratic senators and 28 Democratic House members, can prevail.

To appreciate both the economic ignorance and the political desperation inherent in the argument of Democratic leaders, consider the fact that Rep. Nita Lowey, who heads the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in the House, has recently been characterizing the current economic downturn as "Bush's recession." Now, this would be some feat, especially given the fact that the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), which is responsible for identifying the onset of recessions, officially declared in November that the economic expansion "ended in March 2001 and a recession began" in the same month.

Well, there you have it: According to Mrs. Lowey, Mr. Bush wasn't in office for two months before he single-handedly engineered a recession. Such economic nonsense is par for the course, coming as it does from a party whose recent presidential standard-bearers repeatedly claimed that the Clinton-Gore administration inherited "the worst economy in 50 years." For the record, measured on a fourth-quarter-over-fourth-quarter basis, economic growth in 1992, the last year of George H.W. Bush's presidency, exceeded 4 percent, substantially higher than the rapidly decelerating growth rate bequeathed by Bill Clinton. Moreover, the unemployment rate had been steadily falling before Mr. Clinton assumed office, in sharp contrast to the direction of the unemployment rate inherited last year by Mr. Bush.

Instead of compromising on an economic stimulus bill last month in the midst of a recession, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who talks about the current downturn as a sequel to "the last Bush recession," forced the Senate to debate a new farm bill to replace the current one, which doesn't expire until the end of September. Oblivious to the recession, apart from politically exploiting it, Mr. Daschle sought to lock in ill-advised spending increases of $73 billion on farm subsidies before the evolving budget deficits would have acted as a brake.

Contrary to Democratic propaganda, the determination in November by the NBER that the current recession began in March confirmed the wisdom of Mr. Bush's tax cut. Given the current economic climate, which Mr. Bush inherited, tax relief should be accelerated, as the president has strongly recommended not curtailed or abandoned, as the Democratic leadership insists. By all means, let this be the central feature of the fiscal debate in this election year.

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