Byline: Tod Lindberg, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Down at the bottom of the front pages over the past few weeks, well below the war news, was the ongoing story of how President Bush's tax cut proposal was faring on Capitol Hill. The administration, the story line ran, did fairly well in the House but ran into serious trouble in the Senate, where the defection of a couple Republicans enabled Democrats to cut the size of the tax cut essentially in half.
The president's wartime popularity, the story continued, didn't automatically entail support for his domestic policy proposals. A defiant Mr. Bush vowed to work diligently to increase the number approved by the Senate. The White House is now mounting a two-week national campaign, including numerous appearances by Mr. Bush and senior officials, to try to win support for a tax cut larger than the one the Senate approved.
It's a good story, and it's a true story, but it is not a story rich in context. I'd like to add some.
Let's start with the basics: It is highly likely that at the end of the day, Mr. Bush is going to get a tax cut through Congress this year of at least $350 billion, the amount the Senate approved. The only direction the number is likely to move as the politicking proceeds is up. Now, the subtext of the narrative of the past few weeks has been that Mr. Bush's tax cut is in trouble. To this one must say: If this is failure, what would success look like?
Mr. Bush sought a $726 billion tax cut over 10 years. Now, to be sure, had Congress simply gone along and passed what he proposed, that would indeed count as a great victory. But it does not follow from the proposition that $726 billion is victory that $350 billion (or some number larger than that) is defeat. Bear in mind that overwhelming majority sentiment in the Democratic Party, in Congress and in the activist base, is dead set against lowering top rates on fairness grounds, and the same goes for dividends. A significant part of the party, probably a solid majority, is against any tax cut at all, either to reduce ballooning deficits or out of a sense that more spending is necessary in areas ranging from homeland security to social services.
Moreover, those deficits really are ballooning. It is also a time of war, with U.S. forces occupying Iraq and with a covert intelligence war still going on against al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. Wars are expensive, and in the past, wartime presidents have often asked people to sacrifice, which they have done out of duty. Accepting a tax cut isn't a part of this tradition. …