Go After The Bush Budget Using Class Warfare And An Argument About Bush's Moral Values - Or Lack Of Them
Paul Krugman effectively makes the case today that the Democrats should build upon their early successes in pushing back against the Bush Social Security privatization plan and now go on the offense against the moral choices contained in Bush’s budget. I heartily agree, especially since what Krugman is calling for is an attack by Democrats against Bush for waging class warfare against the middle and lower classes.
First, the facts: the budget proposal really does take food from the mouths of babes. One of the proposed spending cuts would make it harder for working families with children to receive food stamps, terminating aid for about 300,000 people. Another would deny child care assistance to about 300,000 children, again in low-income working families.
And the budget really does shower largesse on millionaires even as it punishes the needy. For example, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities informs us that even as the administration demands spending cuts, it will proceed with the phaseout of two little-known tax provisions - originally put in place under the first President George Bush - that limit deductions and exemptions for high-income households.
More than half of the benefits from this backdoor tax cut would go to people with incomes of more than a million dollars; 97 percent would go to people with incomes exceeding $200,000.
It so happens that the number of taxpayers with more than $1 million in annual income is about the same as the number of people who would have their food stamps cut off under the Bush proposal. But it costs a lot more to give a millionaire a break than to put food on a low-income family's table: eliminating limits on deductions and exemptions would give taxpayers with incomes over $1 million an average tax cut of more than $19,000.
Here's a comparison: the Bush budget proposal would cut domestic discretionary spending, adjusted for inflation, by 16 percent over the next five years. That would mean savage cuts in education, health care, veterans' benefits and environmental protection. Yet these cuts would save only about $66 billion per year, about one-sixth of the budget deficit.
On the other side, a rollback of Mr. Bush's cuts in tax rates for high-income brackets, on capital gains and on dividend income would yield more than $120 billion per year in extra revenue - eliminating almost a third of the budget deficit - yet have hardly any effect on middle-income families. (Estimates from the Tax Policy Center of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution show that such a rollback would cost families with incomes between $25,000 and $80,000 an average of $156.)
Why, then, shouldn't a rollback of high-end tax cuts be on the table?
Precisely. Sure, the DLC types will tell us that class warfare never works. The DLC likes to point to Clinton’s election in 1992 as evidence that a non-class warfare campaign can work, but that is garbage: Clinton, using his gifts, actually ran one of the more successful class warfare campaigns in modern times, couched effectively in community, values, and responsibility.
The effective pushback by Democrats against Bush’s privatization plan shows that by pointing out who the winners and losers are under a Bush proposal, the right-wing agenda can be slowed and perhaps defeated. In order to do this successfully, Democrats need to merge their age-old arguments based on policy and statistics with an appeal based on who the winners and losers are under these Bush proposals, and what that says about the moral values of this administration.
Through the use of a Truth Squad concept, Democrats in Congress and others are countering Bush’s daily message on Social Security with facts, and the winners and losers, importantly in the same news cycle.
Shortly after Bush's visit to Raleigh, five Democratic members of Congress from North Carolina held a conference call in which they excoriated the potential cost of establishing personal accounts. "He left out the fact that his plan would cost trillions of dollars that would have to be borrowed from foreign countries," Rep. Bobby R. Etheridge said. "And he forgot to mention that his plan does nothing to secure Social Security for the long haul."
Such sentiment is widespread in Congress, where Bush's proposal faces near-unanimous opposition from Democrats and deep skepticism from many Republicans.
As a result of this effort, Bush’s plan is floundering, and some would say it is already dead. This same effort but even more focused on values, can be waged day in and day out in blasting the Bush budget. Democrats need to question every day why the wealthy have been given a pass once again in making any sacrifice, and even have been given more benefits under this budget, while the middle and lower classes are asked to shoulder the burden once again. Democrats need to also ask why the Pentagon gets away with no cuts at all, and even is allowed to hide its increases, while homeland security, bioterrorism protection, school and general anti-drug programs, and local law enforcement are slashed.
Democrats need to strongly and directly question what this budget says about the GOP’s moral values when making these arguments. If that is class warfare, so be it.