Standing Up to Tax Cut Charlatans. (Editorials)

Article excerpt

There are a lot of Americans, Democrats among them, who should be standing up cheering for two Republicans right about now.

They are Sens. Olympia J. Snowe of Maine and George V. Voinovich of Ohio, who, under enormous pressure from their party leaders (and along with Democrats in the Senate) stood firm and reduced the latest push for irresponsible tax cuts by more than half.

What is at stake here, for those who believe that federally funded programs play a vital role in promoting the general welfare, is nothing less than starving Washington of the revenues necessary to do that job.

First, an essential flashback.

There was a time when Republicans worried about fiscal restraint. The Robert Taft-Dwight Eisenhower-Bob Dole-Jerry Ford-George Bush I-lineage (like Snowe and Voinovich today) argued that government revenues and expenditures should be roughly in balance.

Right-wingers termed these fiscal restrainers "Dime Store Democrats," by which they meant that those who favored balanced budgets did so for unprincipled reasons--they'd spend a dime to the Democrats' dollar without challenging the underlying reason for the program.

For all the faults of the fiscal conservative approach, it had its appeal: It was responsible and rational. But, alas, boring. No pizzazz.

Times have changed. Today, the Republican Party's answer to almost anything that ails us at home (what they've got planned abroad is a different story) is straightforward: tax cuts. And then more tax cuts.

Back in January, the president proposed new tax cuts totaling $726 billion over 10 years--this on top of the $1.6 trillion passed by Congress in 2001. The Senate whittled the latest proposal down to $350 billion, while the House settled on $550 billion. The differences will be worked out over the next few months.

What does $550 billion look like? It could fund Medicare for a year, provide increased daycare benefits to moms on welfare making the mandatory transition to work, fully fund the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Homeland Security, it could do all of that in one year and still leave more than $250 billion for deficit reduction. It is a lot of money.

These tax cuts and the resulting deficits are needed, says the administration, to get the economy out of its slump (private sector payrolls are down 2. …