- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 25, 2003

After his strategic retreat from Iowa, retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark redeployed his forces to more opportunistic electoral targets, including New Hampshire, where he recently offered additional details from his long-term economic plan.

Shortly after announcing his candidacy late last month, Mr. Clark teased the Democratic faithful with a two-year, $100-billion tax-and-spend scheme whose central premise appeared to be that government spending was the primary source of job creation. In New Hampshire last week, he unveiled a 10-year plan that he said would redirect $2.35 trillion from tax cuts, interest payments and wasteful spending to deficit reduction and “investment in priorities.” Unfortunately, it was impossible to tell from Mr. Clark’s “Saving for America’s Future” plan how much of the “savings” would be earmarked for deficit reduction and how much for “investment,” which is how Clintonites describe government spending favored by liberals. Thus, it is impossible to determine if the alleged $600-billion saving in debt-servicing costs, which represents more than a quarter of the plan’s total savings, would ever be realized.

One would expect that Mr. Clark, a West Point graduate who later taught economics there, would be less disingenuous than his fellow Democrats about economics and budget policy. But he’s not. While bemoaning the budget deficit’s impact upon children, Mr. Clark audaciously asserted that “the typical family received $50 a month from the Bush tax cuts.” Only someone with contempt for the intelligence of his audience would make such an absurd claim. That “$50 a month” relates only to the new 10 percent tax bracket. On top of that, the Bush tax cut (1) eliminated the marriage penalty (which forced tens of millions of American married couples to pay an average of about $1,500 per year in higher taxes); (2) doubled the tax credit for each child from $500 to $1,000; and (c) reduced the quintessentially middle-class tax brackets of 28 percent and 31 percent by 3 percentage points each.

While explicitly low-balling the tax savings of the middle-class, Mr. Clark implicitly acknowledged them by calling for the repeal of the Bush tax cuts for “the most privileged.” He would do so by reinstating the top tax bracket of 39.6 percent, which President Bush and Congress lowered to 35 percent. Evidently unaware that the bottom 50 percent and 75 percent of tax-filers pay 4 percent and 17 percent of federal income taxes, respectively, Mr. Clark promised that he would make the tax code more progressive. He also claimed that his $1.1 trillion tax increase would be “more pro-growth.”

Even more questionable than the alleged $600 billion saving in interest costs are the savings Mr. Clark promised to achieve from his pledges to “streamline government and improve efficiency” ($225 billion); “end corporate welfare” ($200 billion); “close corporate loopholes” ($100 billion); and “promote a more effective and multilateral Iraq policy” ($125 billion). This is pulling numbers out of thin air.

Topping his dubious $225 billion streamlining list is the elimination of the Commerce Department’s National TelecommunicationsandInformation Administration, whose proposed funding was already slashed from $82 million in 2002 to $22 million in Mr. Bush’s 2004 budget. Next on Mr. Clark’s “hit parade” is his claim to save money by eliminating the Office of Thrift Supervision, which happens to be a self-supporting agency that derives income from examination fees and assessments on thrifts. The big enchilada in Mr. Clark’s $225 billion streamlining-and-efficiency scam is a promise to save $125 billion by “improv[ing] healthcare.”

This page takes a backseat to nobody in its support of eliminating corporate welfare. So, when Mr. Clark claims he can convince Congress, which last year overwhelmingly passed a welfare-infested farm-subsidy bill, to vote to eliminate $200 billion in corporate welfare, he’s effectively telling the electorate that he doesn’t have a clue.

Mr. Clark’s slippery use of facts and figures suggests that he really is the tax-and-spend liberal his initial proposal suggested he was. Deficit reduction from him? Not likely.

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