CONSIDER THE SOURCE
I heard Walter Williams, the conservative columnist, speak once. He is a tall, lean, tough African American who ridicules affirmative action, who thinks insider trading should be legal, who believes we should drill for oil in Alaska’s National Wildlife Refuge, and who is, above all, I think, a firm believer in free-market economics. He is a very smart man, even if not much burdened by warmth or empathy. (He begins his February 19 column: ‘If you’re a poor adult in America, for the most part, it’s all your fault.’)
I point all this out to suggest he is no lefty. Yet in this recent column, he all but calls for President Bush’s impeachment [[OOPS! No, he doesn’t this Walter Williams, a different professor by the same name, does – my apologies!]]:
George W. Bush has knowingly deceived the American people on the two overriding policy issues of his presidency – the invasion of Iraq and the deep tax cuts. Other presidents have lied. Only Bush has repeatedly duped Congress and the public to thwart their exercise of informed consent. He is the first president to use propaganda as the main weapon in selling his policies. Bush’s unprecedented pattern of deception may constitute an impeachable offense. . . .
Deeming presidential deception a high crime under the impeachment clause can open a Pandora’s box of problems. Yet, President Bush’s actions appear to be a far more serious assault on the Constitution than Watergate. I hold that interpreting Bush’s pattern of deception on his most important policy proposals as a high crime against the nation is a necessary step in rescuing American democracy.
I think part of the disconnect here is that the President does it so blithely. The bulk of the Bush tax cuts was designed to go to the people at the top end of the economic ladder. Yet he told the nation in the second televised Presidential debate that ‘most of the tax reductions go to people at the bottom end of the economic ladder.’ So that was a trillion-dollar untruth; but it was offered so naturally, so comfortably, how could it be anything but, at worst, a difference of opinion? The second round of tax cuts, he told us, was crafted to maximize job creation. No reputable economist believed these particular tax cuts were designed to maximize job creation, and presumably neither did he. But he and his team simply imposed it as the truth.
Walter Williams is not buying it. [[Or at least one Walter Williams isn’t. Again, my apologies to the other.]]
CONSIDER THE FACTS
Neither is Matthew Miller. His latest column (emphasis added):
THE REPUBLICAN HONESTY DEFICIT
By Matthew Miller
It’s not usually easy to prove that political rhetoric is a total fraud – there are caveats and shades of gray and pseudo-arguments that leave the offending politician ‘covered.’
Not so with Republican moans these days about ‘big government,’ and with their characterization of Democratic presidential contenders as tax addicts set to inflict their ‘liberal’ agenda on the nation.
Proof of the GOP’s honesty deficit comes by asking a simple question: What is the Republican position on the right size of government and how to fund it?
Start with basic but poorly understood facts. Just seven programs make up about 75 percent of all federal spending: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, military pensions, civil service pensions, defense and interest on the debt.
That’s ‘big government.’ Republicans aren’t trying to cut a dime of it. In fact, they’re calling for big increases in every one of these programs. According to the White House, interest on the national debt alone will soar by 66 percent over the next five years thanks to the red ink oozing from President Bush’s budget.
And those ‘big 7’ programs come before you toss in everything from NASA to the national parks to the National Institutes of Health, not to mention homeland security, student loans and farm subsidies – all things Republicans support, and which take up a goodly portion of the quarter on the federal dollar that’s left.
In other words, if you pay heed to their votes and not their words, the Republican critique of ‘big government’ is a pure charade.
Though it hardly seems possible, the GOP position on taxes is even more shocking. Understanding why requires a quick, painless look at a few numbers.
Over the next five years, President Bush figures the ‘big 7’ programs will cost, on average, about $1.8 trillion a year.
Over the same period, he says, the revenue the government will collect, not counting Social Security taxes (which both parties say shouldn’t be used for current spending, though it is), will average about $1.35 trillion a year – or $450 billion a year less than just the ‘big 7’ programs on which Republicans want to spend more.
The reduction in income taxes enacted under President Bush accounts for most of this gap.
Since the GOP thinks income tax rates should continually be reduced, they obviously believe we should fund government activities they support in one of two ways.
First, we can borrow huge amounts from our children (which is the GOP’s present plan). Or, we can at some point raise payroll and other retirement taxes, which means funding government through taxes that impose a greater burden on lower- and middle-income citizens. The income tax, by contrast, is progressive.
Mathematically, these are the only options available, given that Republicans, rhetoric aside, aren’t interested in cutting government spending.
This, then, is today’s spectacle: ‘Family values’ Republicans are sticking the kids with the bill for current spending while railing fraudulently against the ‘big government’ they support.
Then they attack Democrats for offering the radical idea that we ought to pay for the spending we all agree we want (and that’s before we even begin fighting about other things government might do – like cover the uninsured, or help poor children get better teachers).
If we had a functioning press corps – one that simply presented these facts again and again – the fiscal and moral fraud of the GOP position would be self-evident.
Instead, today’s press corps chews endlessly over the political jockeying. ‘Does Bush have Democrats in a bind because they have to talk about repealing his tax cuts?’ they ask, rather than laying out the facts that show that Bush’s positions are an obvious hoax.
So much for our ‘adversarial’ press! And because the White House knows top editors and producers will think that repeating these tougher questions and analyses would seem too ‘biased,’ they can count on ‘he-said, she-said’ coverage to leave citizens confused.
This confusion is the Republican goal.
Is this Republican hoax really sustainable? As both political parties know, the answer largely depends on how the press views its responsibilities in the coming election cycle.
It’s time for editors and producers to hammer home some basic civic facts instead of continuing their overwhelming – and lazy – emphasis on ‘the politics’ of every debate.
Matthew Miller’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. He is author of The 2 Percent Solution: Fixing America’s Problems in Ways Liberals and Conservatives Can Love, in bookstores next month.