Howard Dean has the lead editiorial in today’s WSJ, subtitled, “I will begin by repealing the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. ” While one has to admire his forthrightness, one wonders about the wisdom of taking this page from the playbooks of Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis.
Further, the logic of the speech troubles me, given it’s presumption that The Government somehow controls the economy and is the main engine for growth.
The economy is going through tough times.
The average American family is in trouble.
Well, no. At least not economically.
The economy has been losing good jobs, and the benefits that went with them, at an astonishing rate.
Since roughly the dawn of the industrial revolution. The question is, are they being replaced with other good jobs?
It doesn’t have to be this way. Our economy has proved its resilience time and again. The skills and productivity of the American worker are the envy of the world.
Well, not the whole world. But generally true.
When we have had clear direction and effective leadership, we have created millions of jobs, raised the incomes of all Americans and diminished the gap between rich and poor.
Of course, we’ve lost millions of jobs during such times. And gained millions of jobs during times of ineffective presidencies.
But over the past two and a half years, the number of unemployed Americans has gone from under 6 million to over 9 million. Worse, the number of long-term unemployed–those who have been looking for a job for more than 6 months–has tripled to almost two million workers.
A curious starting point for the analysis, since the downward trend started earlier.
These numbers are part of a larger story. The promise of America has been based on the understanding that hard work would pay off in a better job and a brighter future for the next generation.
Who made that promise? And, given regression to the mean, one would think the trend would have to slow down at some point. Most people work in climate-controlled offices now and have luxuries that were beyond the dreams of science fiction. How much better is it going to get?
We need to restore that promise. Millions are unemployed, and millions more are underemployed in dead-end jobs. Wages are stagnant. Job security is disappearing.
When have we ever had job security? And don’t the goals of putting people in jobs that aren’t “dead-end” and having no turnover in jobs mutually exclusive? Creative destruction has been a feature of our economy for practically forever.
One out of four U.S. workers is free-lancing, employed in a temporary job, self-employed or working part-time.
Compared to what? How many of them choose this kind of job for lifestyle reasons (say, a schedule that allows them to raise their children) rather than the lack of alternative jobs?
Promising a “compassionate” administration, President Bush pledged to “recover the momentum of our economy,” “reward the effort and enterprise of working Americans” and confront economic problems now, “instead of passing them on to future generations.” Instead, he’s offered tax cuts that don’t address our needs, and saddled our children with debt for generations to come. On this president’s watch, the federal debt has grown by over $1 trillion. That’s the rough equivalent of putting $3,500 on the charge card of every American.
Well, the government does get better interest rates! I’d say it’s more like taking on a slightly bigger mortgage. But I agree that the promises made in the inaugural address were rather feckless. I imagine the president and his speechwriters figured the economy would have righted itself by now. It’s apparently finally happening, although so far job growth has lagged behind other indicators.
How did our nation come to this place? The answer is simple–the economic policies of this administration are aimed at ideological goals, not help for the average American.
Clearly, the tax cuts were largely ideologically driven, although they were also motivated by a desire to give the appearance of doing something about the economy. And I’d point out that the tax cuts got through a Senate that was either narrowly controlled by the Democrats or where the Democrats had easy veto power through the filibuster. This means that the policies that have been enacted are only marginally different that would/could have been enacted by a President Gore. The nature of our government simply doesn’t allow radical ideological swings in the short term.
Further, the idea that any first term president would deliberately enact policies that they thought harmful to “the average American” is absurd. Surely, even if Bush an Co. really hated the lumpenproletariat and cared only about making their rich, evil oil baron fatcat friends more rich, powerful, and capable of oppressing the Little Guy, simple self-interest would motivate policies that would improve the economy to make the masses want to re-elect the president?
We can do better. As president, my economic policies will be focused and clear. I will begin by repealing the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, and using the revenues that result from the repeal to address the needs of the average American, invest in the nation’s infrastructure and, through tax reform, put money in the hands of those most likely to spend it.
The task of meeting the needs of American families begins with health care. My plan will not only insure millions of Americans who are without adequate care today, it will reduce costs for small business, states and communities–freeing up funds that can be used to grow businesses and meet other national and local priorities.
An important part of my program for a full-employment recovery will be extending a helping hand to states and communities. My policies as governor kept Vermont strong fiscally; but all over America, the financial resources of other states and cities are strained to the limit. Teachers are being laid off, highways lack repairs, firehouses are closed. Instead of tax cuts that have not created jobs, we need to make investments in America. I will increase federal aid for special education, and provide more temporary help to the states–for homeland security and school construction and infrastructure modernization. And I will increase the availability of capital for small businesses, so that they can invest in new technology and create more jobs.
So, we’re going to increase federal income taxes by repealing the last two tax cuts. Both of which were rather small. And with the increased revenue, we’re going to solve the health care crisis and the woes of state, county, and municipal governments across the land? That would make Jesus’ fabled trick with the wine and fishes look like a parlor game by comparison.