[This Commentary originally appeared in the July 19, 1990 issue of The Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel.]
Let’s get one thing out quickly. I don’t like taxes. I don’t think the government does a good job spending our money. When it comes to the national budget, I think I could make better decisions in three minutes than some Washington Bureaucrat can make after a three year study. I hate taxes. I believe they suck the blood from an otherwise vigorous nation.
Of course, I am rational enough to realize the government must provide services (like defense, education, special incentives to the less fortunate, etc…). Tax money fuels these services. I know we need taxes, because I know we need government services. I just really doubt the fiscal management abilities of those Washington folks. Unlike some elected officials, I don’t see taxes as a panacea.
Now that I’ve got that off my chest, I think I can take a reasoned look at what has just happened within the Beltway. For those hermits who come out just to read this column, here it is in a nutshell: we can expect increased taxes and some spending cuts.
On the whole, this bipartisan arrangement, though no details have been determined, is ripe for analysis. Who won? For the next two weeks, we will profile the two winners of the Great Tax Battle of 1990. This week, as the title implies, we’ll look at George Bush, our first winner.
Before we talk about the President, though, let’s discuss the group who most wants to win – the American people. Whether or not the American people have won can only be determined when the details of the plan come about. We can, however, take a guess at this agreement’s impact on us by looking at the reasons why the two winners won.
George Bush swallowed a very large pill. He staked his White House claim on the now famous “Read my lips – no new taxes” line. He made a promise. Most of the press has emphasized that promise and insists the President has broken a sacred vow. We must remember one thing, though, most of the press thinks they can run the country better than the President (for that matter, most of the press thinks Congress can run the country better than the President).
Most of the press does not offer its personal bias up front (now you know the reason for the first two paragraphs). I watched “The MacNeil-Lehrer Report” a couple Friday’s ago. Its analysis portion featured a panel of editors from big city dailies (Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, Miami and somewhere out west). Their common assessment – George Bush cynically duped the voters during the 1988 presidential election. They imply he knew all along he would raise taxes.
With shades of the Iran-Contra affair, they asked, “What did he know and when did he know it?” These editors, while admittedly lambasting George Bush all along for not raising taxes, refuse to let up now that he has committed to increasing tax revenues. They could not hide their blood lust. Their unconstructive attitude embarrasses me for being associated with the press. These people have all the priorities of those who insisted on rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
I’ll tell you one thing. I sure as heck trust George Bush raising taxes more than I would trust Michael Dukakis. Because of his pledge, George Bush has a lot more to lose in raising taxes than Dukakis would have.
That’s why President Bush won this tax battle. He made a politically tough decision. Only a true statesman can make these kinds of choices. The American people realize this. Our citizens are not as naïve as the press would have us believe. They know it would have been very difficult for President Bush not to increase tax revenues. They knew George Bush, as a result of his “Read my lips” slogan, would raise taxes only in the most urgent of situations.
We see no evidence the vast bulk of the American people look upon taxes as a fiscal cure-all. People, to restate the top two paragraphs, dislike taxes, but understand the need for them. If we have learned anything from California’s Proposition 111 – people may support taxes if they know where the money goes. More broadly, the issue we care most about in our hearts has little to do with taxes or spending. It deals with fiscal responsibility. Responsibility means making tough decisions. Winner: George Bush.
Next Week #68: Milestones (originally published on July 12, 1990)
Next Week #70: The Great Tax Battle of 1990 – Winner #2: Democrats (originally published on July 26, 1990)
[What is this and why is here? See Interested in Discovering My Time Machine? for more details.]