Dems' V-P Choice Opposes Party on Iraq

aDuring Senate debate late last week on an Iraq pullout deadline, Senator Joseph Lieberman -- who was the Democratic Party's Vice Presidential nominee in 2000 -- forcefully and eloquently disagreed with his party's mad rush for the exits. The full text of Senator Lieberman's speech is available on Lieberman's website, which makes a remarkable contrast with the position of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Here's excerpts from Sen. Lieberman's speech:

In his speech Monday, the Majority Leader described the several steps that this new strategy for Iraq would entail. Its first step, he said, is to "transition the U.S. mission away from policing a civil war" . . .

What does this actually mean? To begin with, it means that our troops will not be allowed to protect the Iraqi people from the insurgents and militias who are trying to terrorize and kill them. Instead of restoring basic security, which General Petraeus has argued should be the central focus of any counterinsurgency campaign, it means our soldiers would instead be ordered, by force of this proposed law, not to stop the sectarian violence happening all around them—no matter how vicious or horrific it becomes.

In short, it means telling our troops to deliberately and consciously turn their backs on ethnic cleansing, to turn their backs on the slaughter of innocent civilians. . . .This makes no moral sense at all. It also makes no strategic or military sense either.

Al Qaeda's own leaders have repeatedly said that one of the ways they intend to achieve victory in Iraq is to provoke civil war. They are trying to kill as many people as possible today, precisely in the hope of igniting sectarian violence, because they know that this is their best way to collapse Iraq's political center, overthrow Iraq's elected government, radicalize its population, and create a failed state in the heart of the Middle East that they can use as a base. . . .

The suggestion that we can draw a bright legislative line between stopping terrorists in Iraq and stopping civil war in Iraq flies in the face of this reality. . . .

In sum, you can't have it both ways. You can't withdraw combat troops from Iraq and still fight Al Qaeda there. . . . So I ask advocates of withdrawal: on what evidence, on what data, have you concluded that pulling U.S. troops out will weaken the insurgency, when every single experience we have had since 2003 suggests that this legislation will strengthen it? . . .

In his remarks earlier this week, the Majority Leader observed that there is "a large and growing population of millions—who sit precariously on the fence. They will either condemn or contribute to terrorism in the years ahead. We must convince them of the goodness of America and Americans. We must win them over."

On this, I completely agree with my friend from Nevada. My question to him, however, and to the supporters of this legislation, is this: how does the strategy you propose in this bill possibly help win over this population of millions in Iraq, who sit precariously on the fence?

What message, I ask, does this legislation announce to those people in Iraq? How will they respond when we tell them that we will no longer make any effort to protect them against insurgents and death squads? How will they respond when we declare that we will be withdrawing our forces—regardless of whether they make progress in the next six months towards political reconciliation? . . .Do my friends really believe that this is the way to convince Iraqis, and the world, of the goodness of America and Americans? Does anyone in this chamber really believe that, by announcing a date certain for withdrawal, we will empower Iraqi moderates, or enable Iraq's reconstruction, or open more schools for their children, or more hospitals for their families, or freedom for everyone?

Mr. President, with all due respect, this is fantasy.

Lose Money from Home In Your Spare Time!

. . . and Then Thank Barney Frank

You can lose thousands of dollars every week -- right from the privacy of your own home!

Thanks to the modern miracle of Internet gambling, you don't have to plan ahead for a trip to a casino far-far away! Just imagine the gambling convenience:
  • No need to plan ahead!
  • No pre-set spending limits!
  • No distraction from family members wanting to share your vacation time!
  • Temptation is always as close as your keyboard.
A new federal law was passed just last year that prevents this, limiting your abilty to lose large amounts of money quickly and easily. Thanks to Barney Frank, the Massachusetts Congressman who now chairs the House Financial Services Committee, that law may be undone.
If he succeeds, credit card companies and banks will once again be required to process payments of online gambling debts. Last year a new law gave you the right to refuse to pay online gambling debts financed through a credit card (just as you can protest improper bills). That's akin to many state laws that make illegal gambling debts unenforceable (which is why bookies have their own "enforcers").

The plan is reported in The Hill, which reports that it will be sold as a supposed way to make billions each year for the government. It's the same argument presented by those who want to legalize marijuana, whose mantra is "legalize it and tax it".

Frank claims it would provide tens of billions of dollars, which would not be used to reduce the federal deficit, but instead would be spent on expensive tax, healthcare, or other domestic legislation Democrats want to move this year.
Social conservatives are aghast, but the new Democratic majority isn't listening to them.
Rep. Frank says that now, “anti-gambling busybodies will be less inclined to interfere in people’s lives.” Pro-gambing lobbying groups are ecstatic. “We’re incredibly excited," said Michael Bolcerek, president of the Poker Players Alliance, said. “It will do the right thing for poker players and at the same time protect the public interest.” Former Sen. Al D’Amato (R-N.Y.) is working for the group.
Frank’s proposal, however, could face an uphill battle in the House, which passed the anti-Internet gambling law by 317-93 last summer. Several members of the current leadership voted for the anti-gambling bill last July, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.). Meanwhile, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) voted no, as did Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.).

The leader of the anti-Internet gambling group, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), says “We’re going to fight it.”

The proposed legislation could benefit the offshore gambling sites that saw their U.S. customer base disappear when Congress stepped in last year.
Lobbyists for banks and credit card companies that would have shouldered much of the burden of enforcing the gaming crackdown reacted favorably to Frank’s announcement. “We’d be very pleased to see that law repealed simply because it would remove a potential burden on the financial system and especially on community bankers,” said Steve Verdier, the senior vice president for congressional affairs at the Independent Community Bankers of America.

Iraq & A-G Controversies Keep Dems Afloat

High-profile Democrats James Carville, Stanley Greenberg, and Bob Shrum periodically report on the state of the Democratic Party, under the group banner of the Democracy Corps.

Their latest analysis reports that the new Democratic majority in Congress is making no headway in the eyes of the public, except for their condemnations of the war in Iraq and of embattled Attorney-General Alberto Gonzales. Overwhelmingly, they say, Americans believe the country is moving in the wrong direction, even with the Democratic majority in Congress.

Here's an excerpt from that report:

"For months now, we have chronicled the strikingly static political environment in the country as revealed in dozens of public polls released over the last four months. After the historic Democratic victory in November, ratings of Democrats surged while President Bush and Republicans continued to fall, moving Democrats to an even stronger position than they enjoyed in November. Since then – despite the new Congress, continuing violence and sectarian strife in Iraq, and major developments on a range of domestic and international issues – the key political indicators have barely moved:

  • "The number of Americans who believe the country is moving in the right direction has been at or just below 30 percent since January, and earlier gains in consumer confidence have been erased by higher gas prices in the last few weeks. Across three polls released so far in April, we see a monthly average of 28 percent right direction, 67 percent wrong track – the highest wrong track number since May 2006.

  • "President Bush’s anemic job approval numbers have been remarkably consistent across all polls for the past four months. Neither approval nor disapproval of Bush’s performance has moved more than a point from where they stood in January.

  • "Continuing low marks for the Congress – 34 percent approval in two different polls this month – are mixed with optimism for the new Democratic Congress and strong preferences for congressional Democrats over President Bush on a range of issues, particularly Iraq.

  • "Building on their 8-point victory in last November’s election, Democrats have maintained double digit margins in the generic congressional contest in almost every poll measuring the race this year."

The Democracy Corps' findings are good news for Republicans who are fighting against the Democrats' spend-big-and-let-taxes-go-up agenda, but bad news because the Iraqi situation remains so volatile and cannot be managed as normal legislative issues are.

New Website Plans to Hold Democrats Accountable

It's called the Majority Accountability Project. It launched on the Internet on April 23rd.

Founded by two Capitol Hill veterans, MAP seeks to be a major on-line clearinghouse of information on the House Majority, conducting its own investigative stories and making them available to the public, on-line community and the mainstream media.

Its goal is to apply the same standard to Democrats' conduct as that party has applied to Republicans. The challenge is whether the "mainstream media" will be as attentive as they were to every allegation against the GOP.

“Last year, dozens of organizations, blogs and internet-based groups were engaged in comprehensive research on the Republican House majority - poring over legislation, travel vouchers, FEC statements, and financial disclosures - disseminating that information and, quite often, driving a great deal of the mainstream media coverage,” said Michael Brady, MAP President and co-founder. “We think this majority needs that same level of scrutiny.”

MAP will compile and maintain comprehensive records on members of the Majority, such as house votes, campaign financing, district activities, policy positions and public statements.

“MAP will begin to fill a huge void in internet strategy and activism,” said Mike Giuliani, MAP co-founder and its Secretary-Treasurer. “While the Democrats boast of a large number of blogs and on-line organizations already in existence, conservatives do not have an on-line news organization to match that impact. This Majority and its candidates made a lot of pledges and promises, and the public has a right to know whether they are being kept.”

MAP hopes that its work will be picked up and repeated by other media.

Its first two stories focus on following the money trail involving Democrats. One story posted on its brand-new website describes how a lobbyist with a questionable past has now become the go-to-guy raising millions for freshman Democrats in the House of Representatives.

Another story describes how Democrat House leaders and Members have donated tens of thousands to pay legal fees for Christine Jennings. She's the Florida Democrat who lost a tight race for a House seat last fall, and then filed an official election challenge asking the House to seat her and un-seat Republican Vern Buchanan. The story questions how Democrats who are paying her legal fees can claim to be impartial when they vote to uphold or deny her election challenge.

Prior to founding MAP, Brady served as Director of Strategic Communications for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), has been a political analyst for TV and was a longtime aide to U.S. Representative Tom Reynolds. Giuliani most recently served as Chief of Staff to former U.S. Representative Sue Kelly and formerly worked for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Why Alberto Gonzales Is Safe

President Bush has re-affirmed his support for Attorney-General Alberto Gonzales, despite the unrelenting bipartisan pounding of Gonzales by Congress.


Gonzales remains a major distraction and embarrassment for the President, weakening the White House's ability to focus on Iraq, the federal budget, Medicare and Social Security insolvency, and a host of other issues.

The headlines won't stop; the pounding won't go away; the distraction will continue. The President cannot be happy, but he's sticking by Gonzales.


Simply put: Because as bad as things are, any other course would make them worse. A firing or resignation would require the President to nominate a new Attorney General. Senate Democrats then would seize that as a fresh opportunity to:

  • Revisit the controversies over Gonzales (asking the nominee endless questions about whether they endorse or disavow each action by Gonzales)

  • Grill the nominee about each and every hot-button issue in the justice system (homeland security intelligence-gathering; the rights of detainees at Guantanamo Bay; "profiling" of terrorism suspects; enforcement of the death penalty; etc)

  • Quiz the nominee about supposed flaws in their background and whether his/her views are politically-correct or not.

It would be a major media circus that would be dragged out for months. Meantime, the hearings over Gonzales and the dismissals of eight U.S. attorneys would continue. His departure would not end those hearings or those headlines.

Had there actually been a violation of law by Gonzales, the equation would be different. Then a change in that position would be necessary. But it's not because this is a political controversy rather than a legal breach.

The current one-ring circus would expand into a two-ring circus if Gonzales were to go. As bad as the current distraction is for the White House, replacing the Attorney-General would only make it worse.

aGonzales' Tenacity Surprises Many on Capitol Hill

See Manhattan For Just $8 A Day!!

aAn expanded version of this has been posted by FOX News on its website. CLICK HERE.

New York City Mayor Bloomberg--himself a billionaire--proposes a new $8-a-day tax for the privilege of driving into Manhattan (unless you stay north of 86th Street--up toward Harlem).

For trucks, it's even worse--$21 a day.

The mayor calls it a "congestion fee". In fact, it's a tax and a penalty for using a motor vehicle. And the purpose is not to help pay for the roads and bridges used by drivers. Instead, hundreds of millions of dollars would be transferred annually to benefit the users of mass transit which is already heavily-subsidized by drivers and the general taxpayer. Overall, the plan would support about a $50-billion expansion of NYC's huge mass transit.

Their hope is that the media's efforts to stampede fear of global warming has changed the political environment. This audacious plan is being touted in the name of protecting the environment, hoping to disguise its true nature as a major new tax.

Mayor Bloomberg's Earth Day-timed announcement featured a video introduction by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the West Coast's Rockefeller Republican. That raises obvious questions of whether the Governator is ready to test similar ideas in California. British Prime Minister Tony Blair also made a video cameo appearance, saying “This would mark out New York as a global leader in halting climate change."

Because the NYC plan requires an intricate Big Brother-monitoring system to track every vehicle's movements, just building the high-tech infrastructure is estimated to cost an initial $225-million, and the federal government is already being suggested as the source for that money. The Bush Administration's Transportation Secretary, Mary E. Peters, didn't throw cold water on the notion with her response, "This plan is the kind of bold thinking leaders across the country need to embrace if we hope to win the battle against traffic congestion."

Fortunately, that one sentence was the entirety of the Secretary's statement, leaving plenty of wiggle room as the politics of this plan mature.

Rising fuel prices already provide free-market disincentives for drivers, but if they switch to mass transit there's fewer drivers left to subsidize that transit--thus the $8-per-day fee to make up the difference and keep the subsidies growing.

We're hearing angry outcries already from those who will be hurt by this fee. But imagine the even-larger outcry if the Mayor had proposed funding the mass transit expansion by raising the fares for using the subway or buses! This "farebox recovery rate" in New York City covers about half that system's annual operating costs--and none of the capital expenses--leading to an annual deficit in the billion-dollar neighborhood. Even so, those riders pay a larger percentage of the operating costs than in any other transit system in America. Still, the users of mass transit wouldn't be the ones paying for this $50-billion capital expansion.

Traffic congestion is a serious problem. The U.S. Transportation Department has suggested various approaches, including what is called "value pricing", whereby users of toll roads would pay higher rates during peak periods.

However, true value pricing typically would use the extra fees to improve roads and bridges to handle the traffic. Bloomberg's proposal instead would take the money paid by autos and trucks and send it to further subsidize mass-transit.

Usually overlooked in transportation debates is the fact that automobile users already pay a heavy government burden for daring to favor the freedom and flexibility that automobiles provide. One-sixth of the federal fuel taxes paid by drivers is diverted to mass transit already.

The almost-all Democratic NYC Congressional delegation can be expected to push for federal funding to implement this plan, with significant pushback to be hoped for both from Republicans and from Democrats in other parts of the country.

In the movie, people wanted out, not in!

aRead Mayor Bloomberg's plan here.
aAmtrak and mass transit are heavily-subsized; aviation has a much-smaller subsidy; and drivers get a "negative subsidy" as fuel taxes are siphoned off to mass transit. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics publishes the numbers
here. On average, transit receives over $5-billion per year in net federal subsidies, while highway users paid about $8-billion more than is plowed back into roads. On a passenger-mile basis, passenger rail (Amtrak) is the most heavily subsidized mode, followed by mass transit, and (distantly) by aviation. But users of autos and trucks pay extra rather than being subsized.

Inner-City Charter School Hits Home Run

They usually arrive several grades behind when they first enter this school. They're 98 per cent black. 89 per cent come from poverty. Their campus is in the heart of Oklahoma City's most-downtrodden area.

Yet they just blew away other Oklahoma students in their annual performance tests.

They're at the KIPP Academy, a charter middle school that's been fighting off a public school system whose bureaucracy and teachers' union wish it would go away. KIPP means "Knowledge Is Power Program". There are only 52 schools nationwide in the KIPP program. Their goal isn't just to lift up underprivileged kids to get a high school diploma. They're preparing them and pushing them toward college.

The KIPP College Preparatory School in northeast Oklahoma City scored a 2006 Academic Performance Index of 1,393 out of a possible 1,500. The number measures Oklahoma Core Curriculum Test scores, passage rates, student attendance and dropout rates. The average API score for all Oklahoma students is 1,180. The average score in Oklahoma City Public Schools is 1,006.

The only middle school in the state that scored higher (slightly) was one in an upper-middle-class area of Oklahoma City. The results impressed Principal Tracy McDaniel (photo at left), who was under pressure. This was his first eighth-grade class and he needed to prove they could perform well, just as his young students had been doing.

What's their secret? They expect more, require more and get more from the students, the parents, the teachers and everyone else.

KIPP doesn't rely on teachers with magically-unique personalities or Hollywood-movie rapport with students. It relies on discipline and effort. KIPP's school day is longer than in the public schools--7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., plus Saturday classes twice a month. The staff enforce discipline and require parents to back them up. Parents--like students--have to agree in writing to obey the rules of the school.

Principal McDaniel says, "KIPP is a school where you have to work hard. Nothing is easy . . . you have to be dedicated to everything you're doing."

Perhaps the most significant accomplishment was that all of the school's eighth-graders passed both the writing and the math tests. Every single student. By comparison, statewide just 72 percent of eighth-graders passed the math test. In the other Oklahoma City public schools, only 59 percent passed.

"We don't quit until they get into college,” McDaniel said. "Take excuses away from these people who say these kids can't learn,” he said.

aRead the April 21st Oklahoma City news account of the great performance by this charter school
aRead a Washington Post account from last fall about how this KIPP school overcame public school bureaucracy (and my own minor role in helping them).
aContact this school and congratulate them.
aRead the bio and more comments of principal Tracy McDaniel.

"Sticks and Stones . . .

. . . may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."
Is murderous violence no worse than insulting speech?
Barack Obama seems to think so. After the Virginia Tech horror, he told a Milwaukee audience that we should be just as vigilant in halting other “violence” as we are about “physical violence”.
Ben Smith of listened to the speech, and quoted Obama's examples:
  • "[Radio host Don] Imus and the verbal violence that was directed at young women . . . that's a form of violence"
  • Outsourcing: "the violence of men and women who . . . suddenly have the rug pulled out from under them because their job has moved to another country.
  • Obama then cites bad schools and bad neighborhoods as forms of violence, as well as
  • “the violence of children whose voices are not heard in communities that are ignored,"

Obama’s speech with its litany of what he considers as violence is available online in an mp3 audio file.

Is murder to him a mere sub-issue of his political ideology? Human life is just another pawn on the political chessboard?

It’s another example of how those on the Left will give their political causes the moral equivalence of respect for human life, even as they undercut that respect with their promotion of abortion.

aI highly recommend these excellent commentaries about how America and our media are responding to the Virginia Tech killings:

Far Left Demands Billions More in Social Spending

The Who’s Who of America’s Left are assembling a manifesto to the Democrats they worked so hard to elect. The message is simple: Add mega-billions more to federal spending on social programs.

As reported by The Hill newspaper in Washington, the Left is showing a united front via an ultimatum-style letter they’re preparing to send to the Congress.

In last year’s elections, this same coalition condemned Republicans over the amount of federal spending—never mentioning that their own goal is to spend MORE rather than less. Now they’re pulling the classic political bait-and-switch on voters by urging enormous increases in social programs.

This coalition-in-chief calls itself the Emergency Campaign for America’s Priorities (ECAP). At its union-hosted website, ECAP describes itself as “a nationwide campaign of national and grassroots organizations committed to reversing the Administration’s policy of drastic cuts to programs that primarily benefit the poor and middle class in order to finance tax cuts that benefit the wealthy and special interests.”

Just a look at ECAP’s membership proves who is pulling the strings of the Democrat Party: labor unions,, pro-abortion Planned Parenthood, the Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the Sierra Club, National Council of Churches, Ralph Nader’s groups such as USPIRG, and social welfare groups like the Children’s Defense Fund.

It’s no coincidence that members of the coalition are also major recipients of federal funds. Collectively, they spent many tens of millions of dollars to elect Democrats in 2006. Now they want a multi-billion-dollar return on that investment.

Partial list of ECAP's organizing partners

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)
Alliance for Retired Americans (ARA)
American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO)
American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)
American Academy of HIV Medicine
The Arc and UCP Disability Policy Collaboration
Campaign for America's Future (CAF)
Center for Community Change
Children's Defense Fund
Coalition on Human Needs
Communications Workers of American (CWA)
Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities
Direct Action Welfare Group (DAWG)
Fair Taxes For All Coalition
Families USA
Food Research and Action Center (FRAC)
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR)
Mennonite Central Committee, Washington Office Political Action
National Council of Churches
National Council of Jewish Women
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
National Head Start Association
The National Women's Law Center (NWLC)
OMB Watch
People For the American Way (PFAW)
Planned Parenthood Federation of America
Rural Americans for a Secure Future (RASF)
Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
Sierra Club
United for a Fair Economy
United States Student Association (USSA)
US Action
Voices for Working Families
Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW)
Welfare Rights Organizing Coalition
Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA)

Money to Burn

"It's not what you earn, it's what you keep that counts!"

That adage should be remembered in the Presidential race.

Here's the burn rates for the GOP candidates:

and for the Democrats:

This is not good news for the GOP! Obviously, Democratic donors don't need as many invitations and pushes as Republican donors do right now!

(Number-crunching is taken from and

Pro-Life Victory Raises Stakes in '08 Race

Today brought the Pro-Life community its biggest victory since Roe v. Wade in 1973, as the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Congress’ prohibition of “partial-birth abortions”.

It took years of focus and detailed legal work by pro-lifers to win this 5-4 decision, especially after a 4-5 loss in 2000 regarding a similar partial-birth abortion law.

Because it only restricts the very worst type of abortion (starting to deliver a probably-viable baby, then killing it just before it exits the mother), this decision directly restricts only 2,000 or so of the million-plus annual abortions in America. But now the abortion debate has renewed significance, because elected officials (and not unelected federal judges) once again have a constitutional role in deciding abortion policy.

The impact will be huge in the Presidential race. Voters will insist that each candidate must be clear in proclaiming what they believe the law should be, rather than passing the buck and claiming they cannot influence the law, so their position doesn’t matter.

Now it DOES matter, and it matters very much.

All the Democrat contenders for President couldn’t rush fast enough to condemn today’s decision. Their positions are all alike, and all pro-abortion.

Republican contenders were almost as fast to react, except they praised the ruling. But there’s nuanced differences among the Republicans on abortion policy. For example, Rudy Giulani recently re-affirmed his support for using taxpayer money for abortions. Now each difference among the GOP contenders will be magnified because there is a very real chance that their Supreme Court appointees could swing the pendulum even further away from Roe v. Wade, or even reverse it.

Get set to hear Planned Parenthood claim that elected officials have more important issues to pursue than abortion restrictions. Yes, over 3,000 U.S. soldiers have lost their lives in Iraq. But that still pales compared to over 1-million American abortions each year.

Virginia Tech Horror--Will We Learn the Right Lessons?

The horror scene at Virginia Tech will be an everlasting tragedy for the dozens of families who have lost loved ones. Their grief and anguish won't be private. Our media will document every tear, every outburst, and peer into every emotional wound, all handled with the most modern of sympathy.

Suffering in public is shared, but it's still suffering. We saw it play out in my hometown of Oklahoma City, when another crazed killer struck there. Tracking grief with a bevy of cameras rarely lessens it. Those who work in private to lend a hand and a comforting shoulder are needed, and thankfully America remains blessed with a multitude of these.

But just as we saw after the Murrah Federal Building was bombed, killing 168, even now groups are planning how the Virginia Tech tragedy can be exploited.

I don't know what perverse attitudes pushed the VT gunman, but I know the attitudes that push those who will to use the situation to promote a political agenda. Colleges cannot guarantee that no tragedy will occur on-campus, and gun control laws cannot either. A campus with 25,000 students is its own city no more immune to threats than any other community.

Inquiry into the actions and inactions of leaders and law enforcement is proper, but it shouldn't be stampeded by the media's rush to fix blame as quickly as possible. The Duke lacrosse team is only the latest of many bad examples of this.

Modern media can't capture the true compassion of America. Blacksburg, Virginia, like Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, has many people of faith. I saw them step forward in my hometown, where they were the ones who made the difference. I know they are stepping forward now in Blacksburg and in the hometowns of the grieving families. Perhaps, rather than using this tragedy to promote political agendas, it's a good time to focus on the value of religious faith. It provides the comfort that no TV anchor can.

New Congress Looks Away As Taxpayers Get Mugged

As printed in's Think Tank Town
Wednesday, April 11, 2007

There's about to be a mugging, and American taxpayers are the unsuspecting victims. Worse, the cop on the beat is looking the other way.

The mugging will lift $3.3 trillion from purses and wallets because the 2003 tax cuts will begin expiring soon. That means the average American family will have to pay an extra $2,641 each year, according to Heritage Foundation analyst Brian Riedl. Congress could stop it by renewing the tax cuts -- but it's looking the other way instead.

The budget resolution moving through Congress is the blueprint for what's coming. Higher spending -- by hundreds of billions -- is in the plan. Renewing tax cuts isn't. The 2003 tax cuts, which President Bush wanted to be permanent, were approved only as "temporary" tax relief. Permanent relief was blocked by the very group that now denies responsibility. The old higher-tax policies will make their comeback unless Congress acts to prevent it, something the new majority says it won't do. Eventually, a small fraction of the tax relief might be renewed, but that will still be a net loss to taxpayers and a damper on America's economy.

Personal and business income tax rates will climb. Capital gains taxes will go up. The death tax will have new life. The marriage penalty will once more punish husbands and wives. Child tax credits won't continue. And the AMT (alternative minimum tax) will hit more and more middle-income workers.

The sneaky thing is that instead of voting to raise taxes and going on the record -- something even liberal members of Congress are loathe to do -- Congress won't have to do a thing. No tough committee vote. No pesky taxpayer revolt to deal with. Fewer angry calls from constituents.

No, the budget resolution itself doesn't raise taxes. What it actually does is fail to halt higher taxes. And the reason that lower taxes are expiring is because Democrats last year blocked the Republican majority from making the 2003 tax cuts permanent. The budget resolution accepts -- with approval -- the fact that tax rates will rise as the tax cuts expire, and then endorses those higher taxes while trying to deny blame.

What will the average American family get after it starts paying this extra $2,641 each year? The revenue is being treated as a spending windfall -- enabling a $3.3 trillion spree of new and expanded government programs during the next 10 years. The goal of balancing the budget takes a back seat.

Unfortunately, the issue is being obscured by typical party bickering over whether higher taxes are "in" the bill. And not enough attention is being paid to the higher spending that's proposed. Many conservatives have a credibility problem in attacking spending because of our behavior when Republicans held the majority. But the GOP is playing to its strength by talking about the need to keep taxes low, because that has spurred significant economic growth and more jobs.

Washington is a busy place. Confrontations over Iraq, hearings about U.S. attorney firings and subpoenas, and a pork-filled emergency war spending bill that declares the 2008 political conventions are a $100-million "emergency."

Crafty politicians, like magicians, always keep their audience distracted so they don't notice the sleight of hand, such as this back-door tax increase.

Taxpayers should keep their eyes focused on their own pockets. They're about to get picked.

Ernest Istook, a former Republican congressman from Oklahoma, is a visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation ( He was principal sponsor of the Balanced Budget Amendment.

Bush Lays Down A Marker to Congress

Fight Over Fiscal Discipline Begins With Bush’s Budget

February 27, 2007
By Ernest Istook,
Special to Roll Call

There’s a two-front battle between Congress and President Bush. While they feud over who will direct policy in Iraq, an inch-by-inch slugfest continues over who will control the domestic policy turf.

“It’s the spending, stupid!” was as big a message as Iraq last fall. Bush’s proposed budget is pivotal, despite efforts to demean it as irrelevant.

With one simple pronouncement the president showed that he “gets it” even if others don’t: He embraced the too-long-abandoned goal of balancing the budget without raising taxes.

It’s been an orphaned issue for many years in Washington, D.C.; 1996 saw the last Congressional vote on a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. Yet that was the top item in the “Contract with America” before the Republican majority shifted to less-ambitious objectives. Nor did Bush embrace it during his first six years in office. That opened the door for Democrats to campaign successfully on fiscal discipline.

Preservation of the Democrats’ new majority may hinge on whether they will embrace balancing the budget without a tax hike — or even accept the goal of balance when spending on entitlements is set to skyrocket as baby boomers age. Bush knew that when he set the bar so high. And Republicans in Congress know they can now voice support for the goal without being in charge of the tough decisions.

Cynics rightfully note that the next president will inherit much of the heavy lifting. But that means every 2008 candidate for the White House must now address the issue.

Early indicators show an effort to bury the issue by attacking the tough decisions promoted by the Bush budget. Critics of spending controls rushed to the microphones more quickly than supporters did.

Bush’s proposals to rein in Medicare and other government-paid health care were quickly condemned. Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) called them “an exercise in make-believe.” Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) said it would hamper his “All Kids” program to provide government-paid health care for every child, regardless of income.

But Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) properly questioned why the federal government pays billions extra to states that give free health care to families with income three times the poverty level, while others draw the line at two times. Imagine the cost if states could abandon all income restrictions like Blagojevich wants.

States feel entitled to federal funds just as individuals do, even though 45 states reported in the fall that their budgets are meeting or exceeding their projections. Homeland security has joined health care and education as a way to justify a multitude of state requests. Federal funds now provide training and equipment to first responders “just in case” they face a cataclysm, yet the funds often will be used to address auto accidents and fires instead.

One example was voiced by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), who said it is “completely appalling that the [Bush] administration seems to be unwilling to act on rail and mass transit security until we are faced with another disaster.”

Yet if it’s a federal duty to provide security for large gatherings at rail stations or bus stops, then why not at every mall and sports arena? (This differs from aviation, where a hijacked and fuel-laden plane becomes a guided missile.)

The Bush budget spotlights tough choices like these, while Congress often avoids them as the price of achieving a majority vote. But the elections weren’t just about Iraq. Democrats claim they also were about “underfunded” priorities, but more voters seem to understand that overfunded priorities were a bigger problem.

If Democrats want to claim the low-spending high ground along with Bush, they must avoid gobbledygook and speak with equal clarity. They should state their spending goal clearly, without carefully crafted modifiers or qualifiers. And if their goal is to balance the budget by raising taxes, they should say so.

Republicans should follow the same advice of clear-speaking. The GOP challenge is less over what to say but whether it will be believed, since voters decided they lacked fiscal discipline in recent years. But embracing the president’s goal is a necessary first step to regaining trust.

Former Rep. Ernest Istook (R-Okla.) is a visiting fellow at The Heritage Foundation.

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