The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Sunday, October 20, 2002  

Republican Deficits and Republican Lies

Whenever a friend, acquaintance, colleague, co-worker, or even a perfect stranger tells me he is a Republican and quickly follows that admission by adding, “I’m a liberal on social issues, but I’m a conservative on fiscal and economic policy,” I laugh. Well, actually I laugh, but I cry a little too.

The ability of the Republican Party to cast itself in the public mind as the party of fiscal responsibility, let alone of fiscal restraint, is one of the most amazing accomplishments of modern politics. The propensity of otherwise intelligent people to fall for this lie, to accept unthinkingly the premise of this joke, is no less astonishing.

An article in today’s Washington Post brings this issue to mind once again. There readers will find a depressing story by Mike Allen about the Republican Party’s confidence with respect to the upcoming mid-term elections, “Republicans Planning for Full Control Of Congress.”

Not content with the reckless damage the tax cut passed last year already has done, and will continue to do, to the federal budget deficit, mindless and ideologically driven Republicans, armed with what passes for economic analysis among the “give it to me in 100 words or less” crowd, are planning, or at least hoping, to accelerate provisions of that law and make the tax cuts, otherwise scheduled to expire in 2010, permanent.

Also under consideration, according to Allen’s article, are a reduction or complete elimination of the capital gains tax, elimination of the so-called double taxation of corporate earnings, a flat income tax, and a value-added tax, the last being easily the most regressive form of taxation possible.

“Business lobbyists [Ed.: A perfectly reasonable pseudonym for “Bush administration officials.”] said their wish lists include substantial nationwide limits on the amount of damages that can be awarded in medical malpractice cases, plus a major overhaul of the tax code to reduce the burden on corporations,” writes Allen.

“One administration official said Bush is more likely to take a ‘rifle-shot’ approach that might include simplifying the allowance for depreciation -- the yearly loss in value of machinery and equipment -- and reducing the incentives for corporations to move their headquarters overseas,” the Post reports.

Yes, yes, by all means, we must simplify the depreciation allowance! “Quick, Mr. Republican Congressman, tell me what’s complicated about the depreciation allowance!” Well, um, uh, you see . . . “Mr. Republican Congressman, is there something about the depreciation allowance that corporate finance departments and the major accounting firms don’t understand?” Well, um, uh, you see . . . “Mr. Republican Congressman, are corporations filing returns filled with errors resulting from confusion about the depreciation allowance?” Well, um, uh, you see . . . “Mr. Republican Congressman, will simplifying the depreciation allowance add to or subtract from federal revenues?” Well, um, uh, you see . . .

For crying out loud, we’re not that stupid! We know, or at least those of us paying attention know, that “simplifying the depreciation allowance” is code speak for cutting taxes paid by corporations.

“A House leadership aide said one of the first measures to be passed by a Republican-controlled Congress would be a permanent version of last year’s phased-in, $1.35 trillion tax cut, scheduled to expire in 2010. The aide said Republicans would try to build support by dividing the package into pieces, so Democrats would be forced to go on record for or against specific taxes, including the inheritance tax,” reports the Post.

Ah yes, the inheritance tax, a tax the Republicans with stunning disingenuousness refer to as “the death tax” in their effort to gain support for repeal of the measure from the general public, and most important from their base of affluent, but not wealthy, and completely misled and misguided suburban voters, without owning up to the fact that a repeal of the inheritance tax would benefit, according to most honest estimates, a grand total of 10,000 Americans, very few of whom are among the previously mentioned affluent, but not wealthy, and completely misled and misguided suburban voters.

Middle-class tax relief? Well, it’s clear that’s not on the agenda. And why should it be? No change there, of course, since it hasn’t been on the agenda at any time during the Bush administration, no matter what President Bush, Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, OMB Director Mitch Daniels, and dizzily spinning politicos Karl Rove, Ari Fleischer, and Mary Matalin say.

And why should they care? It’s not the Republicans’ fault a wide swath of middle class voters have swallowed the administration’s propaganda about tax cuts. If we’ve learned anything in the last two years it’s that all too many middle class voters devote as much energy to worrying about falling into the lower class as they do to imagining they are part of the upper middle class.

The socially liberal fiscal conservatives have made their choice: fiscal conservatism, or the constantly broken promise thereof, is more important than their personal freedom and civil rights. If such as these wish to continue to be shafted by the Republican Party, by its insane economic theories, its ludicrous fiscal policy, its deranged social agenda, and its psychotic drive to erode even the most reasonable protections of civil liberties, that’s their decision. I only wish they wouldn’t drag the rest of us down with them.

ADDENDUM: Dwight Meredith of P.L.A. has the hard numbers.

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