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We make it; they take it

National | And unless the GOP gets tough, they'll take more

Issue: "Smoking guns," March 6, 1999

In the aftermath of the impeachment and trial of Bill Clinton, the Republican congressional "leadership" promised to get back to business and pass a puny 10 percent across-the-board tax cut. Emerging from a meeting with the president, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and House Speaker Dennis Hastert seemed to be engaging in tax cut equivalency, no longer seeing the 10 percent reduction as sacrosanct but one of many proposals "on the table." Sensing capitulation, House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt said he might throw in a minimum wage increase as a price for agreeing to his own proposal of "targeted" tax cuts. Mr. Hastert, who told the publication Roll Call he wants to emulate the style of former and perpetual House Minority Leader Bob Michel, said of the 10 percent tax cut: "Our enthusiasm is tempered by the reality of how hard it is to get it all done." Blame those nasty moderate Republicans who control the balance of power. If Republican "leaders" want an example of what real leadership looks like, they should consult the man most responsible for our healthy economy. In his autobiography, An American Life, Ronald Reagan wrote: "People were tired of wasteful government programs and welfare chiselers; and they were angry about the constant spiral of taxes and government regulations, arrogant bureaucrats and public officials who thought all of mankind's problems could be solved by throwing the taxpayers' dollars at them." How about this Reaganism: "It was time to scale back the size of the federal government, reduce taxes and government intrusion in our lives, balance the budget [something he regretted not doing because a Democrat-controlled House kept upping the spending] and return to the people the freedoms usurped from them by the bureaucrats." Such rhetoric puts advocates of the tax-and-spend status quo on the defensive. There's more in Mr. Reagan's intellectual bank: "People were growing tired of having to work four months of every year just to pay their taxes. Taxes kept rising, and the only consistency in the system was that once a tax was imposed, it was never rescinded." (It's more than four months today.) When Mr. Reagan successfully cut taxes and later pushed through the Tax Reform Act, government revenues exploded. People had more money to spend and invest, and that increased government's income. Instead of turning up to 70 percent of their earnings over to government, taxpayers could keep 70 percent and send just 30 percent to Washington. Under President Reagan, more than 80 percent of Americans paid the lowest tax rate, 15 percent, or no tax at all. Four million lower income working Americans were bumped from the tax rolls. The proportion of personal income taxes paid by the top-earning 1 percent of Americans increased by more than one-third between 1981 and 1987, while the tax burden on the poorest half of taxpayers fell by almost 20 percent. More than 80 percent of the increased personal income tax revenues during the Reagan years came from taxpayers making more than $100,000 a year, while the amount paid by those earning less than $50,000 dropped by billions of dollars. In the first six years after tax rates declined, the federal government took in an additional $375 billion in revenue-more than four times greater than the amount projected before the reductions. That was more than enough to pay for the $140 billion needed to rebuild the military. The deficit could have been reduced if the Democratic Congress hadn't voted to spend an additional $450 billion on its pet projects. Why isn't this record worth defending by today's Republicans who give up without a fight and watch the polls instead of their voters (or nonvoters if you see how many stayed home in disgust in the last election)? It's our money, not the government's. We make it. They take it. We have a right to determine who can better spend it. The president doesn't think we would act responsibly if allowed to keep more of our money. He is the last one who should talk about acting responsibly. Potential presidential candidate Steve Forbes put it succinctly: "No message, no victory." Ronald Reagan had the message, persisted with it and won. In a diary entry for Jan. 22, 1982, he wrote: "I told our guys I couldn't go for tax increases. If I have to be criticized, I'd rather be criticized for a deficit ... than for backing away from our economic program." Today's Republicans apparently are more concerned about losing face than losing elections. If they keep this up, they'll lose both.
-© 1999, Los Angeles Times Syndicate

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Cal Thomas
Cal Thomas

Cal, whose syndicated column appears on WORLD's website and in more than 500 newspapers, is a frequent contributor to WORLD's radio news magazine The World and Everything in It. Follow Cal on Twitter @CalThomas.

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