The new House Republican plan to reduce income taxes by a meager 10
percent is being touted as bold and promising. In fact, it is neither.
At best, it is a faint-hearted compromise.
During the last six years, Bill Clinton and congressional Democrats have
so successfully demonized Republicans that they have become afraid of
articulating conservative ideas for fear of being branded compassionless
The Republican proposal to reduce increases in Medicare spending, for
example, was spun as an assault on the elderly, rather than a
responsible measure aimed at curbing runaway entitlement spending.
Just last week, Clinton, in advocating a Patients’ Bill of Rights — the
sheer title should make constitutionalists and conservatives bristle
with alarm — described it as a matter of life and death. The
implication is that those who oppose his latest scheme to expand
government will be choosing to let people die because of their own
Republicans are never going to defeat Clinton in a propaganda war. He,
and the Richard Gephardts and Tom Daschles, will continue to demagogue
the issues and vilify Republicans because their ideas alone will not
convince the people. Only by injecting emotionalism into the debate,
through class warfare, racial overtones or the like, can the Democrats
prevail on the issues.
Liberal commentators are guilty of the same thing. The Wall Street
Journal’s Al Hunt, in decrying the Republican tax-cut proposal,
concluded his latest column by opining that “the tax-cutters won’t get
their way because of their own overreaching greed.”
Liberals will continue to depict champions of freedom as avaricious
scoundrels as long as it works politically.
Republicans have become so gun-shy that they don’t even advance large
ideas anymore. Their proposed bills are already so diluted that they
more closely resemble compromise legislation than daring new
Specifically, their tax-cut plan is so half-baked that it barely whets
the appetite of supply-siders. Even so, it lends itself to the charge
that it caters to the wealthy.
Since Democrats are going to launch class warfare against any such
proposals, the Republicans might as well go all the way with a
substantive income tax cut, such as the 30 percent across the board
reduction endorsed by Dan Quayle, plus major reductions in capital gains
and estate tax rates.
Don’t hold your breath. The current Republican leadership doesn’t appear
to believe in the concept anymore. It was only because of the projected
surpluses that they had the courage to resurrect the tax cut idea.
How can we expect leadership, much less bold leadership, from
Republicans when they no longer truly believe in the ideas behind their
If Jack Kemp were still in Congress, he wouldn’t be apologizing for the
tax-cut proposal, nor trying to piggyback it onto a projected budget
surplus. He would not be engaging in such zero-sum game fallacies.
These Republicans are not compassionless, but they may indeed be
passionless. They should explain that reductions in the capital
gains tax rate will, as always, increase revenues. The same is true for
reductions in the marginal income-tax rates. As for the estate tax,
everyone knows that its primary purpose is not to generate revenue
(because it yields relatively little), but to confiscate private
Republicans need to take their case for tax cuts to the American people
boldly and unapologetically. If they expect to remain the party of ideas
then they need to begin articulating their thoughts instead of sounding
like a bunch of glorified bean-counters.
They must clarify such basic things as:
- across the board reductions in tax rates are inherently fair — they
do not disproportionately benefit the rich, as has been charged;
- these reductions will not have to be paid for by surpluses because
they will be revenue neutral or revenue enhancing;
- Clinton’s confiscatory fiscal policies are not responsible for
eliminating the budget deficit (any more than Reagan’s tax cuts were
responsible for increasing it), nor for the economic growth we’ve
experienced under his tenure (which, apart from the stock market, has
not been as robust as during the Reagan years).
If Republicans want to recapture the enthusiasm of their conservative
base and the American people, they better demonstrate that they still
believe in the ideas that differentiate them from Democrats.
The GOP should quit imitating the Democratic Leadership Council. Reagan,
not Clinton, should be their model. They should deep-six their current
plan in favor of a real tax-cut bill and aggressively advocate its
passage in the context of economic growth, opportunity, and freedom.