(Keep in mind that Jeffords and Snowe are both close to Democrat John Breaux; he may be a force behind this.)
Each of the three announced their opposition to Bush's bill in its current form with rationales quite similar, at least in their outlines, to the ones Democrats have been making: not enough left for domestic priorities; not enough help to those who need it most; too reckless in assuming those future surpluses will arrive.
Yet the real issue -- the real dividing line -- may be less over the size of the cut than over its structure. One thing that has left Dems struggling in recent weeks is a flood of polling data (some of which the Dems commissioned, and heard at their caucus meeting last week) all showing the same conclusion: Bush's campaign trail critique of Gore's targeted tax cut plan -- that he "picked and chose" who would get a tax cut -- was very effective. (Simply paying down the debt also no longer seems like an effective argument against tax cuts.)
That's left Dems without one of their key tax policy weapons -- "Clintonite" targeted tax cuts. So they've been trying to come up with ways of crafting an "across the board" tax cut which doesn't play with marginal rates. The key in every case is giving everyone the same size cut (or close to it), but in dollar terms, not percentage terms -- which is much more progressive (and, yes, vastly more honest).
The best idea making the rounds is to give a rebate on payroll taxes out of your income tax. So say, for instance, that everyone gets to deduct a percentage of their payroll taxes from their income tax. That's across-the-board (everyone gets it), but it focuses the benefit on middle and lower- income families, not the very wealthy, like Bush's plan.
Some of them are even catching on to the idea of pitching this as eliminating the "work penalty" -- like this article said a few years back.
As you know, countless reporters continue to pore over the never-ending outrages of the various gifts the Clintons took with them when they left the White House last month. Brazen, tawdry, awful, shameless, yada, yada, yada . . .
Now let's look at what doesn't count.
For two years George W. Bush campaigned on promises of restoring the American military, which, he argued, had dangerously deteriorated -- in terms of morale, material and readiness. He portrayed the military as over-extended, under- funded, in desperate need of spare parts and unable to meet pressing needs. In his nomination speech, he went so far as to (falsely) claim that two divisions of the army were currently unfit for duty because President Clinton had let things get so bad. In other words, the situation was critical and help was desperately needed.
Yesterday Bush decided he'd stick with Bill Clinton's defense budget after all. He'll institute a "review" of what additional spending might be needed. (This essentially means that any substantial changes in military spending and readiness won't occur until the third year of his administration.)
Needless to say the military brass is really unhappy about this. On the other hand, The New York Times applauded Bush's prudence in not rushing ahead with, "any major increases in military spending until his administration has a chance to review America's real defense needs."
Depending on your views on the military, you may or may not be happy that Bush is not rushing ahead with increases in defense spending. But let's be honest. This is hardly a moment of fiscal austerity. Republicans are talking about cutting literally thousands of billions of dollars in tax revenues over the next decade. There's plenty of cash to go around. And with all the hand wringing there must have been some needs that had to be fixed even before the top-down review, right?
(In this editorial Robert Kagan, a principled, though sometimes outlandish, hawk, explains why this argument about the need for a "review" is ridiculous on its face.)
So what does it all mean? All that talk about Bill Clinton leaving American soldiers at risk because of supply shortages, America in danger because of a weakened military, all those ominous campaign trail warnings from Norman Schwartzkopf . . . That was apparently just . . . well, just crap. This is not only a broken campaign promise but a particularly egregious one, since scare tactics and lies about imperiled soldiers and the nation at risk play on the most primal and volatile public passions. It's high-stakes manipulation and deception. You might even call this sort of lying and hypocrisy shameless, brazen and disgusting.
But here in D.C.? Apparently not.
Who's gonna report this!?!?!
Rush, Lucianne, Drudge? Who?
This Washington Memo adapted from Joshua Micah Marshall's Talking Points