GOOD NEWS: “We can proceed with tax relief without fear of budget deficits, even if the economy softens.” George W. Bush, March 27, 2001

BAD NEWS: The White House now estimates budget deficits stretching through fiscal year 2005 and has requested an immediate increase in the federal debt ceiling from $5.95 trillion to $6.7 trillion.

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House Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt was asked on ‘Meet the Press’ yesterday about delaying tax cuts and whether that’s the same as raising taxes. He called for a bipartisan summit to hash out the economic problems and gently criticized the composition of the Bush tax cuts. I’m a big Dick Gephardt fan, but I wish he hadn’t been so diplomatic. Here’s the answer I wish he had given:

Listen, Tim. Let me be very clear. I don’t know of a single Democrat in the country – not a single Senator or Congressman and certainly not me – who has even suggested raising taxes. That’s number one.

Number two, I don’t know of a single Democrat in the country who has suggested delaying by even one minute any of the tax cuts scheduled for 2002.

Number three, I don’t know of a single Democrat who has proposed delaying even a penny of tax cuts for the so-called ‘bottom 98%’ of the country. So for 98% of your viewers, this isn’t even an issue, much as our friends in the other party might like to scare them into thinking it is.

What some Democrats DO believe is that it is fair to ask whether – for the top 1% or 2% – we should delay the additional tax cuts scheduled for 2003 and beyond until we can afford them. That’s a question that I think should be asked and discussed.

And if the Republicans won’t even ask it – if they believe we should keep cutting taxes for the top 1% or 2% no matter what it does to Social Security or the budget deficit or our ability to fight terrorism . . . no matter what it does to mortgage rates or to our ability to fund homeland defense or to provide a prescription drug benefit for seniors – then I think they should really give up once and for all on this notion that they are fiscally responsible or fair-minded.

I want to cut taxes for the top 1% or 2%. But to me it’s not the absolute number one priority, and I don’t want to do it until we can afford it. And doing the fair, prudent thing shouldn’t require going over anyone’s dead body.

My friend Bryan Norcross suggests an even simpler answer:

Listen Tim: I just don’t see how we can do all the things the President says we need to do and still cut taxes every year for the top 1% or 2%. I didn’t see it before the President signed his tax bill, and I don’t see it now. But if the President can show us how to do it – wonderful! I’m all ears.

In the meantime, Tim, make no mistake: if we don’t solve this, and mortgage payments start going up for the average family a year or two from now because of the budget deficits, people will see that those massive tax cuts were real for the top 1% – but illusory for everyone else.

Tomorrow: Lowering Your Capital Gains Tax Rate (Really! Click It Now If You Don’t Believe Me)

 

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