Friday, May 23, 2003

You think Bush's tax cut is less than half the size of the one he first proposed, but it's actually bigger than the one he first proposed. David Rosenbaum explains in today's New York Times:

...the $320 billion figure, which is expected to clear the Senate today, is artificial.

No one expects that tax breaks for married couples and a bigger tax credit for children, popular features of the bill, will be allowed to expire after next year. This is what lawmakers call a sunset. It was put into the measure to hold down the 10-year cost.

Nor, barring a political upheaval that puts Democrats in the White House and in control of Congress, is it likely that the lower tax rates on dividends and capital gains will be allowed to expire after 2008, another sunset in the bill.

If these elements of the tax cut are calculated on a 10-year basis, the cost in lost revenue stands to be over $800 billion, more than what the president proposed, according to the first analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priority, a liberal research institute.

More important, the tax reduction this year and next year under the Congressional agreement is significantly larger than what the president originally proposed.

The Congressional tax staff estimated that the agreement would lead to a tax cut of $61 billion in the 2003 fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30, and $149 billion in 2004.

The Congressional Budget Office reported that the president's plan would have lowered taxes by $35 billion in 2003 and $117 billion in 2004.

I'm grateful to Rosenbaum for pointing that out, I'm grateful to him for making it his lead, I'm glad the Times put that on the front page (above the fold) and Web site title screen (big headline) ... but even in this article we get Bush as Mighty Hero:

But even more, the president succeeded because of a set of tactics that involved remaining flexible in his goals, taking advantage of division among Democrats, campaigning vigorously in the states of crucial senators and knocking the heads of Congressional leaders who often seemed more interested in pride of authorship than in enactment of legislation....

The tax bill, said Senator Robert F. Bennett, Republican of Utah, was the latest example of Mr. Bush's talent as a political strategist. Mr. Bennett, chairman of the Congressional Joint Economic Committee, continued:

"The president looks at the economy and looks at the electorate and grasps that the electorate wants to see someone doing something. They don't care about the details. So here is Bush with the political smarts to understand that the best medicine is to be seen as a leader making bold strokes, moving out on an issue where others are temporizing."

Oh, and there's an unrebutted cheap swipe at Bill Clinton:

"By the force of his personality," Mr. Bennett said, "[Bush] stepped into the squabble between the House and the Senate and brought everyone into the room and said, `You're going to get this done before Memorial Day.' Clinton would have stood at a board with a Magic Marker and worked through the details. Bush was more interested in getting a bill than he was in what was in the bill."

Let's see: Clinton presided over a recession-free eight-year presidency. He used the first budget cycle of what looked for a while as if it would be a de facto Gingrich presidency to begin the process of destroying Gingrich's credibility, turning Newt and his mighty Contract with America into national jokes. But he's the bumbler. Meanwhile, Bush is Top Gun: he drives the economy off a cliff, but he does it on time.

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