In a summer filled with discussions of missing interns and stem cells, an even more insidious situation was developing that will surely continue to occupy space in the nation’s newspapers — a flagging economy. And, as usual, the spin of political convenience is rampant, dispensing with common sense and resorting to exaggeration and even deceit.
Such is the case with Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who recently blamed the Bush administration’s budget and tax cut for the economy’s woes.
“Certainly,” Daschle claims, “they’re the architects of our current economic condition.”
There are at least three things wrong with this outrageous statement. How, for instance, can Daschle blame the current situation on a budget that has yet to be passed? Unless he is affording President George W. Bush unprecedented powers of suggestion, it seems that his math is fuzzy.
Daschle’s comment also demonstrates that he would greatly benefit from an introductory economics course, in which he would learn that economic cycles are not known for rapidly alternating. That is to say, the slowdown we are currently experiencing has been long in coming, starting even under the stained Clinton administration.
Daschle, of course, knows this. But he seems willing to bend the truth if it means that he might hoodwink a few people into blaming the young administration for the situation it inherited.
Moreover, when the misguided majority leader blames Bush’s tax cut for a dwindling surplus, his bark lacks bite. Surely he is not suggesting that a tax increase would be the correct antidote for our economic troubles?
In times of contraction, government can play an important role in helping to precipitate a turnaround, and Bush has recognized this. Tax reductions are a natural stabilizer and add much needed discretionary income to America’s families.
If Daschle had his way, the American public would be outraged that Bush had the audacity to think they deserved some of their money back. It is alarming to think that some might actually believe him. Could it be that no good deed goes unpunished?
Daschle’s comment, though almost laughable, is far from unique. Rather, it is echoed by numerous talking heads who would have us believe that the government is more qualified to spend taxpayer dollars than taxpayers are.
An enormous government surplus might sound nice, but in reality it can be a drag on the economy if it is hoarded, removing it from the spending cycle, or if it is spent on inefficient governmental projects. Indeed, the Bush tax cut merely returns money to the American people they should not have paid in the first place.
A smaller surplus achieved through the tax cut and rebate is an accomplishment and not a liability. It requires Congress to take a hard look at which programs it should fund, an exercise that is hardly undesirable. It removes the easy solution of throwing more money at our problems and instead pushes for more efficient and sensible expenditures. In short, it keeps the government fiscally fit and responsible to its constituents.
Washington needs leaders who are willing to put aside political blame games in the interest of making good decisions on spending and governmental programs. There are numerous factors that have contributed to our economic slowdown, but a Bush tax cut is not one of them. For Daschle to blame the situation on that is not only disingenuous but harmful, detracting attention from the real causes of the problem.
This is a story that is sure to grow over the coming weeks. With any luck, it will be devoid of the partisan spin of which Daschle seems so fond.
William Edwards is a senior in Pierson College.