- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 18, 2003

Democrats desperately want Americans to believe their party is the real guardian of the nation’s purse strings.

Almost daily, these congressional spendthrifts are giving overblown, sanctimonious speeches claiming the administration’s deficits are wildly ballooning a national debt that will take generations to pay back.

They sound sensibly frugal and righteously worried about all the red ink — but it is, of course, utterly phony and patently hypocritical. They are, as Winston Churchill once described a hated adversary, “sheep in sheep’s clothing.”

These critics of President Bush’s fiscal policies never seem to complain about a spending bill being too fat or too profligate. They offer no memorable cost-cutting amendments to eliminate the pork-barrel projects that are quietly slipped into the big-money bills. They rarely, if ever, vote “no” on any appropriations bills. (They privately reacted with horror and are bemoaning House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s latest directive to cut 1 percent out of all upcoming spending bills.)

What Democrats are offering are fallacies about how Mr. Bush’s tax cuts feed the deficit. If we repealed the cuts, they argue, the government could keep that tax revenue right here in Washington where it belongs and bring those deficits down lickety-split. But after they finish their deficit-denouncing speeches, they typically begin calling for hundreds of billions of dollars in new spending.

Since Mr. Bush took office in 2001, Senate Democrats have proposed 29 amendments to budget bills that called for spending a total of $1.92 trillion, according to congressional budget officials and a vote-by-vote tally by the Congressional Quarterly.

Hold on to your wallets while reading these far-too-typical examples:

• New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton: “What is it exactly we intend to leave our children besides a more dangerous world and a pile of debt?” she said on Jan. 28 on Fox News.

But she seemed far less concerned about debt when she offered three amendments to this year’s budget bill, which would have added a total of $11.65 billion in new spending.

• Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin: “This radical budget chooses tax cuts for the wealthy over the education, health care and the security of Americans. It leaves children behind by creating massive deficits on top of already large debt,” he was quoted saying in the Des Moines Register on March 27.

Mr. Harkin offered two amendments to this year’s budget bill that proposed a combined $49 billion in additional spending. So much for his concern about “massive deficits.”

• Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota, the ranking Democrat on the Budget Committee, has been one of the president’s fiercest critics on the deficit. “The great irony now is that Republicans are seeking the biggest increase in the debt in our nation’s history at the same time they are pushing for a massive tax cut,” he said last week.

“This policy of increasing spending and increasing the tax cuts when you’ve already got record deficits can only lead to one result, and that’s more and more increases in the national debt,” he told the New York Times on May 14. But Mr. Conrad happily supported two amendments to this year’s budget that would have added a combined $506 billion to the deficit.

c Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey was outraged by Mr. Bush’s budget for fiscal 2004, calling it “grossly irresponsible, especially as costs mount for postwar Iraq and our national deficit increases,” according to a story in the Ocean County (N.J.) Observer on May 4.

However, Mr. Lautenberg wasn’t worried about the deficit when he offered two amendments to the budget bill that would have spent $118.5 billion.

All these amendments sought more money for schools, general aid to the states, transportation, public works projects, agricultural assistance, health care, law enforcement and environmental projects — programs with budgets that have risen substantially over the past decade.

Like-minded Democratic spenders don’t seem the least bit interested in controlling the deficit. What they want to control is more of the money earned by hard-working Americans.

When Mr. Bush was running for president in 2000, he repeatedly reminded voters of three fundamental truths about government spending, contrary to the lines Democrats are toeing:

(1) The money we earn is ours, not the government’s.

(2) People spend their own money much more prudently than the government will.

(3) The only way to control the government’s colossal appetite to tax and spend is to let taxpayers keep more of what they earn to spend as they choose.

In the last three years alone, Senate Democrats, who say they want to reduce the deficit, have tried to add nearly $2 trillion to the budget bills — more than all of Mr. Bush’s tax cuts combined. Imagine how much more they would spend if the tax cuts were repealed.

The good news is that the Democrats’ attempted spending binge in this year’s budget battle built the strongest possible case for accelerating and expanding the president’s tax cuts. The more money we leave in the paychecks of the people who earned it, the less chance the spenders and bureaucrats will have to squander it.

Donald Lambro, chief political correspondent for The Washington Times, is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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