- The Washington Times - Monday, October 13, 2003

Dick Gephardt arrived in Washington more than a quarter-century ago as an anti-establishment Democrat who distinguished himself in the House as a tax-cutting (remember the tax-rate slashing Bradley-Gephardt proposal?), pro-life maverick. Having long ago jettisoned both once-bedrock principles in an effort to grease his path toward the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination, Mr. Gephardt now has the audacity to advertise himself as “A Man of Principle” on the Web site of his current presidential campaign.

After spending nearly three decades in Washington, Mr. Gephardt demonstrated just how out of touch he has become when he completely flubbed a straightforward question put to him during last week’s Democratic presidential debate by a struggling small businesswoman. A self-described “middle-class American citizen,” Joy Clayton, who recently opened a restaurant with her husband, told Mr. Gephardt that she “didn’t know how helpless I could feel until I went into business for myself.” The job-creating entrepreneur complained about “so many taxes associated with going into business. There are taxes upon taxes,” including “a privilege tax [that is] levied just for the privilege of doing business.”

The reply from the out-of-touch former House majority leader was a classic inside-the-Beltway non sequitur. Mr. Gephardt launched into an unrelated disquisition on his health-care proposal, which he insisted would help Mrs. Clayton and her employees. His plan, he explained, would offer her “a refundable tax credit equal to 60 percent of the cost of whatever [health-insurance] plan your employees and you choose.”

At first, Mr. Gephardt ignored the moderator’s observation that his health plan would require the “rollback” of the Bush tax cuts for struggling “middle-class” entrepreneurs like Mrs. Clayton. Later, Mr. Gephardt called the Bush tax cuts “a miserable failure,” denying that the rollback would mean a tax increase for Mrs. Clayton.

Contrary to the unprincipled denials of Mr. Gephardt, Sen. John Kerry rightly observed that completely rolling back the middle-class portion of President Bush’s tax cuts would cost $2,000 for families with children. In fact, it could cost such families much more. Consider, for example, a middle-class couple — like the Claytons — together working (at least) 120 hours a week trying to make their new restaurant a viable concern. Suppose their total annual income is a quintessentially middle-class $50,000, which amounts to $8 an hour. Suppose further that the hypothetical middle-class family has three school-age children.

How important are President Bush’s tax cuts to this family? They would reduce the family’s federal income-tax burden by 95 percent, chopping it from $2,573 to $140. By rolling back the Bush tax cuts, Mr. Gephardt would reduce the per-child tax credit from $1,000 to $500, costing this hypothetical family $1,500. He would eliminate the 10 percent tax bracket, which applies to the first $14,000 in taxable income, saving middle-class families $700. And he would resurrect the marriage penalty, which costs this hypothetical family nearly $250 and tens of millions more married-couple families an annual average of about $1,500.

Why is “A Man of Principle” like Mr. Gephardt so dogmatically opposed to a tax-relief measure that would reduce the federal income-tax burden borne by middle-class families with children — like the one described above — by more than 90 percent?

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