Republicans think they've hit pay dirt with their crusade against the
tax code and the Internal Revenue Service. And perhaps they have. But Democrats
should pay particular attention to this irony: the political resonance of the
flat tax is rooted in public concerns over simplicity and equity. And those
should be Democratic issues. Liberals should be in a far better position to
capitalize on them than conservatives. How is it that Dick Armey can exploit
middle-class antitax resentments to support a proposal that would increase taxes
for the lower 95 percent of taxpayers? How, indeed?
It was a later night than Al Gore wanted, but in the end, he got the result in New Hampshire that he needed--a slim but measurable victory over former Senator Bill Bradley in the state where Bradley arguably had the best shot of beating the vice president. But by making Gore's margin of victory so narrow, Bradley also achieved a victory of sorts, earning the right to keep the fight going at least until the California and New York primaries on March 7. The real story coming out of New Hampshire, however, was less the margin of victory, or even victory itself, than the biting edge of anger and personal confrontation that was introduced into the race in its final days.
Since the mid-1990s, Democrats have played a deftly
executed but ultimately evasive game on fiscal policy. As surpluses
began to appear on the horizon, they parried Republican calls for tax
cuts with their own proposals for paying down the debt and "saving
Social Security." This was effective--even ingenious--politics precisely
because it ducked the root question of whether unspent revenues should
be directed toward tax cuts or unmet social priorities. With Congress in
Republican hands, Democrats were hard-pressed to do otherwise. But
ballooning surpluses have rapidly undermined the efficacy of this
approach. If you're not willing to spend projected revenues on
Thursday night's set-to between vice presidential candidates Joe Lieberman and Dick Cheney turned out to be the set-to that wasn't. By tradition, the veep debates are the ones where the fur really flies. But this one was remarkably civil. Yes, Dick Cheney has a habit of talking into his hands. He seldom talked to the camera, as Lieberman consistently did. But his command and expertise were a welcome reminder that Republican candidates for high office don't have to be bumbling dolts. Joe Lieberman did fine. But people expected him to. Dick Cheney showed he can be affable and intelligent.
The end result: Cheney won, but the loser wasn't Joe Lieberman. It was George W. Bush.