GOFFSTOWN, N.H. -- The spin room of a desultory debate doesn't really offer much in the way of spin. The Democrats are frozen in the grip of niceness just now; the specter of the penitent Howard Dean (D-Vt.), reciting his record as governor in hopes of arresting his fall, has put them all on painfully good behavior.
If you work for a living in George W. Bush's America, you're a sap.
Take a quick look, or a long one, at the tax code as Bush has altered it during his three years as president, and you're compelled to conclude that work has become a distinctly inferior kind of income acquisition in the eyes of the law. Bush tax policy rewards investment and inheritance. Relying on work for your income, by contrast, turns you into a second-class citizen.
In his first round of tax cuts in 2001, Bush got Congress to phase out the estate tax by 2010. Last year, with Republicans in control on Capitol Hill, he reduced the top tax rate on dividends from 39.6 percent to 15 percent, and brought the capital gains tax rate down from 20 percent to 15 percent as well.
I've got this Howard Dean problem, and it's not that I think he's George McGovern. Actually, I think he's John Wayne.
And not just any John Wayne, but the Duke in his greatest performances, in some of John Ford's later movies. I know -- it's bad enough to tell my fellow liberals that I still have reservations about Dean, but to say that John Wayne was capable of great performances immediately subjects all my judgment and, perhaps, eyesight, to pitiless scrutiny. Nevertheless.
Why is the Bush recovery different from all other recoveries? A slump is a slump is a slump, but it's during recoveries that the distinctive features of a changing economy become apparent. And our current recovery differs so radically from every other bounce-back since World War II that you have to wonder whether we're really talking about the same country.
After inching along imperceptibly for quarter after quarter, the economy is, by some measures, roaring back. The annual growth rate last quarter topped 8 percent, while productivity increased by more than 9 percent. To be sure, employment is still down by 2.4 million jobs since Bush took office, but it's finally begun to rise a bit.