Posted on August 23, 2000


Bill & Al's Risky Scheme

You're a waste, says the prez


Daniel Clark


When George W. Bush selected Dick Cheney as his running mate, the Gore campaign's response was that Cheney is not a forward thinking politician, that he would lead America into the past, back across The Bridge, to the twentieth century.

The companion argument, of course, is that Gore is the visionary of this campaign, that he is the intellectual, the creator of innovative solutions. Who else would have the vision to set a timetable for the elimination of the internal combustion engine?

But what sorts of innovations have we seen during the two terms of the Clinton-Gore administration? Its 1993 budget was just a slightly magnified image of the Democrat tax bill which was signed by President Bush in 1990. When it tried to socialize health care, this administration demonstrated its forward thinking by nodding in agreement with the government of Canada, that intellectual trailblazer of the galaxy.

The forward thinking, twenty-first century, Clinton-Gore solution to Social Security is ... more money. Their solution to education? More money. To crime? More money. Foreign policy? More money. These are certainly not new ideas, but they are ideas which Democrats believe to be forward thinking or progressive, because they follow what Democrats believe is the natural, forward flow of money, from you to them.

That is why they consider it regressive when you are allowed to keep more of your own pay. It is a "risky scheme" whenever a politician conspires to seize less of your money than he otherwise might. President Clinton warns that tax cuts recently passed by Congress would "help only a few while putting our prosperity at risk," but the only people whose prosperity is threatened by tax cuts are the bureaucrats whose job it is to spend "surplus" money.

On July 21, the Senate passed a bill which would repeal the "marriage penalty," a quirk in the tax code which results in higher taxes for married couples than they would pay if they had remained single. President Clinton vetoed the bill, "in the interest of fiscal responsibility." What? In this era of allegedly huge tax surpluses, the government can't afford to relieve married couples of an obvious injustice?

But wait. President Clinton left open the possibility of signing the bill, on one condition -- that it is packaged with a new federal prescription drug program. So we can only afford tax cuts if they are accompanied by the largest entitlement program created since the Johnson administration.

That sure doesn't add up, especially if you're a liberal Democrat like Bill Clinton, who believes that tax cuts invariably produce declining tax revenues. If you are a liberal, however, you have absolutely no concern whether or not the budget is balanced. The Democrats controlled the House of Representatives for forty years, and never once was their willingness to spend money contingent on that money's actual existence.

The reason this administration is so adamantly opposed to tax cuts is not that those cuts will dip into its bottomless supply of spending money; it's that they will help people provide for themselves, when they could instead be dependent on liberal politicians.

Take, for instance, the proposal to raise the ceilings on investments into IRA and 401(k) plans. The measure passed the House by a whopping count of 401-25. In opposition to a large majority from both parties, President Clinton has suggested that he will veto that bill as well. Why would anybody oppose letting people save more of their own money? Because, according to an official White House statement, "a better approach is to enact pension and retirement savings incentives to reach tens of millions of working Americans who do not participate in employer-provided pension plans and have little or no retirement savings."

Does the congressional plan not provide incentives for people to save, you might ask. Well, no ... not if you understand the Clintonian definition of "incentive," which means either the threat of absolute and brutal destruction, or the delivery of a large sack of money. Happily for "working Americans," it is the latter definition which applies here.

The approach the Clinton-Gore administration would prefer to take is the president's plan for "Universal Savings Accounts," or "USA's" as Clinton has named them, perhaps as a deliberate tweak at flag-waving conservatives. Vice President Gore is promising to implement a spin-off of the Clinton plan, which he less playfully calls "Retirement Savings Plus."

President Clinton's proposal is to create a new savings plan, in which the federal government would use taxpayers' money to subsidize participants' contributions. For lower-income investors, the tax-funded matching contributions would be made on a dollar-for-dollar basis. As income rises, matching funds would shrink to fifty cents on the dollar. The Gore plan raises the offer to three tax dollars for every one contributed by the participant himself, with the ratio being reversed for higher income participants. In both the Clinton and Gore versions of the program, matching funds would be phased out at the point at which the participant is deemed to be rich. Of course, that "sliding scale" deters upward mobility, which is what all liberal programs do by design.

Huey Long

So this is what passes for an innovative idea -- another exercise in warmed-over Depression-era chicken-in-every-pot populist claptrap. If Huey Long were alive today, he could sue.

It turns out that, when Bill Clinton promised to reform welfare, he only meant that he would mold it into another shape. The same president who famously declared that, "the era of big government is over," is now proposing an enormous, redistributionist giveaway program.

In his 1998 State of the Union Address, President Clinton demanded that "any penny of any surplus" be directed toward Social Security. That's far from as bold a challenge as it sounds, because the "surplus," as he defines it, is any money which is left after he is finished spending on his new initiatives. That way, projected revenue losses from tax cuts eat into the surplus, but new federal spending does not. So the amount of money earmarked for "saving Social Security" is not the real issue at all, because Clinton is free to spend as much of it as he wants, before he declares the remainder to be the "surplus".

The day after that address, Clinton spoke before an audience in Buffalo, which one would presume was composed predominantly of his supporters. When he told them that he could return the surplus to the taxpayers in the form of tax cuts, they erupted in applause. Panicked, he hushed the crowd, explained that he hadn't finished his sentence yet, and added that he didn't think it would be responsible to let taxpayers keep their money, because they might spend it the wrong way. In that one breath, he crystallized the entire Democratic Party platform: you can't be trusted with your own money.

When left-wing control freaks like Clinton and Gore gain political power, they take it upon themselves to manage every aspect of citizens' lives, from the traffic on their way to work, to the number of students in their children's classrooms. When liberals are confident that they are speaking only among like-minded friends, they even propose ideas like controlling people's diets through punitive taxation. Considering this, it goes without saying that the amount of money you possess is their business. If that weren't so, we wouldn't have a progressive income tax in the first place. (There goes that confounded "p" word again.)

To Democrats, the money in your paycheck and your portfolio has not been earned, it has been "distributed." If more has been "distributed" to you than some wonk thinks is "fair," then that constitutes a management problem. Enter the managers, Bill and Al, who know better than you how your money should be distributed. Oh, if they decide you have a need for your money, you will have it, once they've taken it from you, and returned it, on the end of a string.

When Bill and Al decide what to do with your money, they call it an investment. When you are allowed to make that decision, they consider it a waste. Moreover, they call it "risky" and "reckless." They would just as soon hand a soldering iron to a chimp.

Taking home, spending and saving your own pay is not progressive, at least as far as the progress of politicians' legacy-building projects are concerned. When Clinton and Gore talk about looking to the future, they have visions of monuments in honor of themselves. Those monuments, fittingly, are federal entitlement programs, large as their egos, and more permanent than Mount Rushmore. Naturally, you would never spend your money on that. Only they would spend your money on it. That is why they say that letting you keep your own pay is a waste.


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