Dole's Path to the White House Will Be Paved with Tax Reform

Article excerpt

Is Bob Dole running for president or for rifle-toting tobacco auctioneer? The GOP nominee's recent tap dance of campaign missteps has even the most stalwart Dole supporters throwing up their hands in despair. "Right now his campaign is lacking a very powerful economic message," a frustrated Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, New York Republican, told the New York Post.

Maybe Dole is getting the message. He told CNN's Larry King in July that a "flatter, fairer, simpler" tax regime would be among the reforms he will unveil in his acceptance speech at the GOP conclave in San Diego. These modifiers aside, Dole's embrace of tax relief comes not a moment too soon. Americans still toil under the ill effects of President Clinton's 1993 $240.3 billion tax hike and President Bush's 1990 $166.5 billion tax increase.

According to figures recently compiled by Bruce Bartlett of the Dallas-based National Center for Policy Analysis, Americans are more heavily taxed than ever. Combined federal, state and local taxes consume 31.3 percent of national output.

When Americans surrendered 25 percent of gross domestic product, or GDP, to the state in 1945, they could blame it on the Nazis: The U.S. defeat of Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo required tax revenues that absorbed a quarter of national output. Today, with national socialism buried and communism more or less behind us, America's tax collectors shake down taxpayers even harder than they did in World War II. In fact, federal taxes alone confiscate a higher share of GDP than they did when Gen. Patton crossed the Rhine.

Whatever revenue recipe Dole cooks up, he must find the proper language to sell it to tax-relief-hungry Americans. Once Dole unveils his tax strategy, his podium barely will have cooled before Democrats accuse him of "selling granny's wheelchair to fund tax cuts" and "starving babies so billionaires might eat." Democrats have used such fighting words to dragoon the right into silence.

Dole should preempt such claptrap by framing his tax package as a way to return America to the days when economic growth meant something. In both the 1960s and 1980s, wholesale tax relief allowed Americans to keep more of what they earned. The result? Dramatic economic growth created well-paying jobs within thriving companies. …